An ingrown toenail can cause redness, swelling, and pain around the toe and make it difficult to wear certain shoes. Moreover, standing or walking can be challenging. Fortunately, ingrown toenail treatment is simple, and you can take preventive care measures.
In most cases, you can treat it yourself at home. But it is best to see a doctor for severe cases of pain or an infection visible in your toenail’s surrounding tissue.
Our ingrown toenail treatment guide is here to help you determine whether or not you can treat your symptoms at home.
What causes an infected toenail?
Paronychia is the medical term for a skin infection around a toenail. Bacteria that grow into the skin is usually the culprit. Fungal infections of the toenail are also possible.
Your infected toe could be caused by one of the following:
- You often submerge your toes in the water.
- You have a callus, which is thickened skin due to rubbing against your shoe.
- You’ve contracted a fungus by probably walking barefoot in public showers or locker rooms
- You have a toenail that has gotten infected
- You’ve either trimmed the toenails too short or cut the cuticle too close to the nail.
Diabetes increases your risk of developing an infected toe. Damage to your blood vessels can make it more difficult for your body to fight off infections caused by high blood sugar. Minor trauma unnoticed by diabetics can cause toe infections because of nerve damage.
Toe infections are more common in people with weakened immune systems. These people include those who have HIV and those who have undergone organ transplants.
Toenail infection symptoms
The following are signs that you may toenail infection:
- There is a slightly foul smell
- Nail discoloration is caused by the accumulation of dirt and debris under the nail
- Shapely deformity
- Rough, crumbly, or brittle
- Discoloration ranging from white to yellow-brown
To avoid an ingrown toenail, follow these steps:
- Make sure your toes are in good shape. If you have diabetes, you should watch for any signs of foot problems..
- Wear sturdy shoes. You should wear steel-toed shoes if your job puts your toes at risk of injury.
- Make sure your feet are comfortable by wearing shoes that are the correct size. A nail may grow into the surrounding tissue if you wear shoes that put excessive pressure on your toes or pinch them. The tightness of your shoes may be invisible to someone with foot nerve damage. Purchase and wear properly fitted shoes, preferably from an establishment that caters specifically to the needs of people with foot problems.
- Keep your toenails at a reasonable length. Nail tips should be the same length as the rest of your toenails. Your toenails may grow into the tissue if you cut them too short due to the pressure of your shoes on your toes.
- Trim your toenails in a straight line. The front of your toe should not match the shape of your nails, so refrain from doing so. Make sure your pedicurist knows to cut your toenails straight across if you have them done at a salon. A podiatrist can trim your nails for you if you have a condition that prevents you from doing so yourself.
Ingrown toenail infections risks
Treating and preventing ingrown toenails is critical if you have diabetes, vascular problems, or numbness in your feet. Do not delay treatment, and don’t put it off. Ingrown nails can worsen if left untreated for a long time.
The following are examples of potential complications:
- Infection of the bones
How to treat an infected ingrown toenail
Home treatment for ingrown nail infection is usually possible if you can get under the nail digging into your skin, and remove it.
Below are some tips to treat ingrown toenails:
- Take over-the-counter pain relievers to ease discomfort and swelling.
- Treat the nail and surrounding area with an antibiotic or antifungal lotion for best results.
- Soak your toe in warm water with Epsom salts or coarse salts to soften the area. It will aid in the removal of pus and alleviate pain.
- Don’t pull or yank on your nail, no matter how tempting it may be. Do not use any force when lifting the skin with a piece of dental floss, and wash your hands thoroughly before doing so.
See your doctor if your infection persists. They may lift and reach beneath the nail more easily, making topical antibiotic treatment more effective.
The following are examples of treatments that your doctor might try:
- surgical intervention in the event of a serious or recurring problem
- trimming or cutting off the ingrown portion of your nail
- putting gauze soaked in antibiotics under the nail to prevent infection and promote healthy nail growth
Your doctor may order blood tests to see how the infection has spread far down.
Other assessments include:
- bone scan
Your doctor may also request a bone biopsy if you are at risk of developing osteomyelitis, an extremely rare complication.
When to see a doctor
Call your doctor if your symptoms don’t improve within a few days or if the nail is getting worse.
If you notice an ingrown toenail, see your doctor as soon as possible if you have:
- An infection
- Poor blood circulation
- Severe nerve damage
What’s the Best Thing To Do
Ingrown toenails are common and can result in pain and swelling. As long as you keep your feet clean and dry, you should be able to avoid this. In terms of self-care, doctors advise people to cut their nails neatly and wear shoes that are the right size.
The nail may need to be removed if it’s infected or if the pain is unbearable, or if the toenail is badly ingrown.