How to Treat Ingrown Toenails

To non-surgically treat ingrown toenails, follow the procedure below.

•    Start by soaking the foot regularly in warm water.  You will want to do this 3 to 4 times a day.  Be sure to dry the feet thoroughly after soaking.  

•    Wear shoes that do not cramp your toes.  Ingrown toenails often develop when the foot is crammed into a shoe with a toe box that is too short or too narrow.  Be especially wary of athletic shoes that pinch your feet.  Cramped quarters plus sweaty feet make the ingrown toenail more likely to become infected.  You may want to wear sandals or open-toed shoes until the toenail heals.

•    After soaking the feet for 2 to 3 days, attempt to gently lift the ingrown toenail out of the skin.  If the toenail won’t budge, or the situation is not improving, see a podiatrist who can take care of the toenail for you.

•    Some people recommend gently working dental floss or a small piece of cotton in between the toenail and the skin.  This will gradually ease the imbedded nail out of the skin.  You can leave the dental floss in for the day, but be sure to change it regularly to prevent infection!

•    Take over-the-counter pain medications if you need pain relief.  Clean and disinfect the nail regularly.  You may need to consult your podiatrist if you notice any signs of infection (redness, swelling, pus, etc.).

People with chronic ingrown toenails, or who notice that the skin surrounding the nail has become red, excessively swollen or sore to the touch, may need to have a podiatrist treat their condition surgically.  These surgical procedures vary and can include removing a portion of the nail, the entire nail, a portion of the underlying skin (the nail bed) or nearby infected tissue.  

•    Partial Removal of the Infected Toenail.  The doctor will simply trim and remove the ingrown part of your nail.  In order to prevent discomfort, she may first inject local anesthesia into the infected toe.

•    Removal of Nail and Tissue.  For people with chronic ingrown toenails, a portion of the nail bed tissue may need to be removed along with the toenail.  The doctor will normally remove the nail with clippers or small scissors, and the tissue with a laser or chemical solution.

•    Removal of the Full Toenail.  This procedure is usually avoided because it encourages the toenail to grow back deformed.

Recovery time is crucial for people who have had their ingrown toenails surgically removed.  The exposed nail bed may be extremely sore, and it can take 3 to 4 months before the nail grows back healthily.  Protective footwear is absolutely essential.  Look for shoes with good ventilation and ample room in the toe box so that your toes will not be pinched.