How Do You Fix an Ingrown Toenail?

Many patients are reluctant to seek help to fix an ingrown toenail

Some have come to believe that an ingrown toenail is never something “bad enough” to see a podiatrist about. Others have a case that undoubtedly does need professional attention, but they’re afraid their already sensitive toe is going to hurt even more once we start treating it.

We can confidently say that both of these notions are false

First, while some ingrown toenails can be treated effectively at home, no ingrown toenail is ever “too mild” to reach out to us about – and there are definitely many cases that are best left to us!

Second, you don’t have to fear the pain of ingrown toenail treatment. We take steps to ensure your comfort before we start addressing your toe, and you will feel much better afterward than you did before coming in – we promise!

So what are your options for fixing an ingrown toenail? That depends on the severity of the condition and other factors, but here are the most common options.

Home Treatment

If an ingrown toenail is mild and there are no complicating factors (such as a potential infection, having poor circulation, or having diabetes), then you may be able to treat the condition at home.

Home treatment for an ingrown toenail is relatively simple:

  • Soak your foot for 15-20 minutes in warm water to soften the nail tissue and provide some relief. You can add Epsom salts if you wish, but it’s not necessary – and don’t add anything that further irritates your foot!
  • After soaking, gently pat your foot dry, then apply an antibiotic cream or ointment to the toe. Cover that up with a bandage.

Repeat this process several times per day, replacing the bandage with a new one each time. We do not recommend placing floss or cotton beneath the nail to guide it away from the skin, as it has potential to become stuck and attract bacteria. If you do opt for these items, however, make sure all of it is removed and fully replaced with clean floss or cotton each time you soak. Never let one piece remain for days.

If you opt for home care and you do not see improvement in your symptoms after a couple days (or they get worse), it’s time to give us a call.

fix an ingrown toenail

General Professional Treatment

Remember that there is no ingrown toenail that is “too mild” for us to advise you about or take a closer look at. You should especially contact us if:

  • Your ingrown toenail is too painful for you to mess with on your own.
  • You suspect an infection. Symptoms can include severe pain, discharge of pus, red streaks radiating from the toe and skin that feels warm to the touch.
  • You have diabetes, poor circulation, or other conditions that can increase your risk of complications.
  • Your ingrown toenails keep coming back.

For general treatment, we can safely lift the toenail away from your skin, if needed. This will provide greater relief and a better opportunity for healing. We can also provide treatment for infection, either through topical ointment or oral antibiotics.

We may then discuss with you how your ingrown toenail might have occurred (or keeps occurring). If factors such as improper toenail trimming or tight shoes are suspected, we will recommend changes you can make and see if that addresses the issue.

Surgical Ingrown Toenail Treatment

If your ingrown toenail is severe or keeps returning no matter what you do to get rid of the problem, we may perform a simple surgical procedure at our office.

After making sure the toe is fully numbed, we remove either part of the toenail or the entire thing. This provides a much better opportunity for recovery, as well as significant relief. Once the numbness wears off, things should feel much better without that direct source of aggravation.

In cases of recurring ingrown toenails, we might also treat the underlying nail bed to prevent new nail growth. This is a permanent fix for a recurring ingrown toenail problem and a way to find permanent relief.

After the procedure, you will likely be able to walk out without any trouble, but we suggest having someone drive you home as your toe may still be numb. 

We highly recommend resting and keeping your foot elevated for the next day or two. You can usually return to standard activities after a few days, but high-impact activities such as running should be put on hiatus for the next couple weeks.

But doesn’t a toe need a toenail? Not particularly, really. Your toe will remain perfectly healthy without one, and you can even apply polish to the skin to keep up appearances (just make sure it is non-toxic and easy to remove – we can suggest best options for you). 

One thing you will not be able to do, however, is apply a fake nail to the skin. That can easily cause damage.

fix an ingrown toenail

The Sooner You Fix an Ingrown Toenail, the Better

An ingrown toenail can often be little more than a nuisance that only lasts a few days, but that is no reason not to provide it the proper treatment. Whether an ingrown toenail is able to be handled at home or needs a professional approach, the last thing you want to do is let it become a worse problem right under your nose!

Keep track of your ingrown toenail and never hesitate to reach out to us if you need help getting rid of it. Call us at (814) 472-2660 to schedule an appointment at our Johnstown or Ebensburg offices, or fill out our online contact form to have a member of our staff contact you during our standard office hours.