That sharp pain in your toe is a telltale sign of an ingrown toenail. Don’t worry, you’re not alone. This condition can be both painful and bothersome, but the good news is that there are steps you can take to alleviate the discomfort and promote healing.

Warm soaks and proper nail trimming help, but if it persists, see a foot specialist. Onychocryptosis is when the big toe’s nail corner curves into the skin, causing soreness, swelling, and redness. Infections can occur if the skin breaks.

In severe cases, skin can grow over the nail. For mild cases, home remedies exist, but if there’s an infection, diabetes, circulation problems, or toe numbness, skip home treatment and see a clinician or foot specialist immediately.

ingrown toenail

What Do Ingrown Toenails Mean?

Medically known as Onychocryptosis, this condition occurs when the toenail’s edge penetrates the surrounding tissue, causing inflammation. It can also develop if the skin grows over the toenail bed.

When the toenail breaks into the flesh, it can create a breeding ground for bacteria, sometimes leading to severe fungal infections. This inflammation is painful and can pose health risks if not adequately addressed.

How Does This Happen?

Causes of this condition include wearing tight shoes, toenail bed injuries, improper trimming, and inadequate foot hygiene. While an ingrown toenail can affect anyone, individuals with diabetes or circulatory conditions leading to nerve damage should be cautious due to slower healing. Genetic predisposition may also increase the risk.

Dos and Don’ts for This Condition

Avoid “bathroom surgery,” which involves attempting self-treatment with sharp objects, cotton balls, or using dental floss to lift the nail bed. Instead, if there are no signs of infection, like discharge or pus, soak your foot in warm water with Epsom salt for 20 minutes.

Consider gently massaging the foot during this time to enhance circulation and reduce inflammation. To cure an infected ingrown toenail, dry your foot and apply an over-the-counter antibacterial cream. Ensuring the affected area stays clean is crucial to preventing infection.

Use sharp toenail clippers designed explicitly for toenails. These clippers have wider blades and are intended for cutting straight across the nail, reducing the risk of it growing into the surrounding skin. Keeping clean and sharp toenail clippers readily available is crucial to preventing ingrown.

Avoid wearing shoes that squeeze your toes, as cramped toenails are more prone to piercing the nearby skin. Teens, athletes, and individuals who sweat excessively should take extra precautions to prevent the creation of an environment conducive to an ingrown toenail infection.

Keeping the skin around your toenails dry reduces the likelihood of developing an ingrown. Since your feet bear the weight of your entire body, ensure they are well-positioned in your shoes and maintain their cleanliness, dryness, and grooming.

Top 9 Ingrown Nail Solutions

The following remedies can alleviate pain and facilitate the healing of an ingrown nail.

1. Soothe With a Warm, Soapy Soak

Submerge your affected foot in warm, soapy water for 20 minutes. Consider using castile soap for this purpose. Adding Epsom salts to the water can enhance the soothing effect.

2. Try an Apple Cider Vinegar Soak

While scientific evidence is limited, apple cider vinegar should be a part of your ingrown toenail self-care. It’s a popular folk remedy for various ailments, including ingrown nails. It’s thought to possess antiseptic, anti-inflammatory, and pain-relieving properties.

To test this remedy, mix 1/4 cup of apple cider vinegar with warm water in a basin. Soak your infected foot in this solution for up to 20 minutes daily. After soaking, be sure to dry your foot thoroughly.

3. Use Dental Floss or Cotton to Lift The Nail

A technique suggested by some experts involves placing small pieces of cotton or waxed dental floss under the edge of your ingrown toenails to promote correct nail growth. However, it’s important to note that not all medical professionals endorse this method.

Surgeons warn that inserting cotton under your nails may intensify pain and create a favorable environment for harmful bacteria to grow. To mitigate this risk, soak the cotton or floss in alcohol before applying it.

3. Apply Antiseptic Ointment

You can aid in the healing process and lower the risk of infection by applying over-the-counter antiseptic ointment or cream as the manufacturer directs, usually up to three times a day.

These products can help manage ingrown toenail symptoms. They may contain ingredients such as neomycin (Neosporin), bacitracin/polymyxin B (Polysporin), or mupirocin (Bactroban). Remember to bandage the toenail after applying the ointment.

4. Choose Comfortable Footwear and Socks

Improperly fitting shoes and socks can put pressure on your toes, a leading cause of ingrown nails. To prevent it from developing or worsening, opt for shoes, socks, or hosiery that fit well and provide ample space in the toe area.

During the healing process, try wearing open-toed footwear to minimize pressure on your toenails.

5. Use Over-the-Counter Pain Relievers

For pain relief from a mild ingrown toenail, you can take acetaminophen (Tylenol) following the recommended dosages (usually up to 2 tablets of 325 milligrams every 4 to 6 hours, not exceeding ten tablets in 24 hours).

Avoid alcohol when taking acetaminophen. If swelling occurs, consider ibuprofen (Advil), which alleviates pain and swelling. Follow the manufacturer’s instructions or consult a doctor using over-the-counter pain relievers.

6. Use a Toe Protector

Toe protectors come with a cushioning barrier for ingrown nails and are available as rings that encircle the affected area or as coverings for the entire toe. Some brands offer toe protectors with medicated gel to soften toenails for easier trimming. Follow the recommended treatment regimen until the ingrown toenail symptoms resolve.

7. Try a Toe Brace

Thin composite toe braces are designed to hold the toe in place and protect the skin as a new nail grows. They effectively treat and prevent ingrown nails and can be found online and in certain pharmacies.

8. Consult Your Doctor for Oral Antibiotics

Your doctor may prescribe oral antibiotics if you have a severe ingrown infection that doesn’t respond to other treatments. These medications help reduce pain and swelling while combating the infection.

Look for signs of an ingrown toenail infection, such as increased redness, throbbing pain, swelling, pus, warmth, or an unpleasant odor. Common antibiotics used to treat infected ingrown nails include vancomycin (Vancocin), amoxicillin (Amoxil), and ampicillin (Omnipen).

9. Consider Nail Removal

When home remedies fail to improve an ingrown nail, your doctor may recommend partial or complete nail removal. This procedure is typically performed under local anesthesia and may involve removing part of the nail’s border, a portion of the middle growth plate, and its underlying border.

In severe and recurring cases, ingrown toenail surgery may be necessary. Remember that this is a last resort option and can be painful, potentially increasing the risk of infection and misshapen toenail growth.

ingrown toenail

Take the First Step Towards Toe Relief

Are ingrown nails causing you agony? Don’t suffer in silence. Our comprehensive guide has all the answers to ease the pain and get your toes back on track. Discover expert advice on home care, prevention tips, and when to seek professional help.

Don’t let your ingrown toenail slow you down. Take the first step towards relief and healthier feet today with Foot & Ankle Centers.

Call us today for a free consultation.