Ingrown toenails can look harmless but can be pretty painful. What starts as abnormal nail growth can quickly turn into a full-blown ingrown toenail. When the nail edge grows into the surrounding skin, you’ll experience pain, swelling, and redness.
If left untreated, ingrown toenails can worsen and possibly lead to infection. We’re here to help prevent that from happening. In this guide, you’ll learn more about how to prevent and treat ingrown toenails.
How to prevent ingrown toenails
Prevention of ingrown toenails goes hand-in-hand with proper foot and toenail hygiene. Healthy nails are not just for show; they’re a critical part of our feet.
Trim your toenails straight across.
The safest and most effective method to prevent ingrown toenails is to cut your toenails carefully. We recommend cutting your toenails straight across and avoiding clipping the corners to round them off. Use a high-quality toenail clipper, one sturdy enough to handle the toughness of toenails (rather than using tools meant for fingernails).
Avoid cutting them too short, as the surrounding skin may grow over the nail. If you’re ever in doubt about a proper toenail routine or how to cut your nails, book a medical pedicure so a foot specialist can eliminate the risk.
Keep toenails at a moderate length.
Trim toenails so they’re in line with the tips of your toes as if you were to draw a straight line. Toenails cut too short may adversely affect the nail when you wear shoes. Pay close attention to any loose or jagged edges and those that can get caught and damage your nail.
Wear suitable footwear
Wear shoes that fit correctly and do not squeeze your toes together. Avoid shoes with a narrow-toe box. Tight shoes can force your toes together, putting your nail at risk of digging into the surrounding skin.
Practice good foot hygiene.
Foot hygiene involves a multi-faceted routine. Keep your feet clean and dry when possible. Regularly check your feet for any abnormalities or irregularities. And finally, book annual foot check-ups. Regular foot assessments are beneficial if you have diabetes or any other condition where you may be more vulnerable to foot issues.
How to treat ingrown toenails
Treatment of ingrown toenails typically comprises at-home treatment and professional treatment. There is more to risk by trying to treat ingrown toenails entirely by yourself, but at-home methods can help relieve pain and preserve the nail while waiting for an appointment at a foot clinic.
Generally, we do not recommend cutting the toenail yourself, as it may exacerbate the issue. Instead, try the following:
At-home treatment of ingrown toenails
- Soak your feet in Epsom salt water to help soothe pain and discomfort. After soaking, gently massage the area around the ingrown toenail to help relieve pain and pressure.
- Routinely clean the area of pus and blood, if needed.
- Apply sparing amounts of Polysporin ointment and cover with a bandage when going out.
- Wear shoes with a broader toe to accommodate added space in your footwear, thus reducing the pressure on the toes.
- Avoid or reduce physical activity if such activity impacts your feet and toes.
- Take pain relief medication as needed or as your doctor recommends to help control pain and discomfort.
- Apply an antiseptic, such as hydrogen peroxide, to the affected area to prevent infection.
Professional treatment of ingrown toenails
Next, a professional can effectively treat ingrown toenails by doing the following:
- Proper toenail care and trimming: A chiropodist can properly trim and cut your toenails in a way that promotes proper nail growth. Proper nail trims both treat existing ingrown toenails and can prevent them from occurring in the future.
- Softening the skin, lifting the edge of the nail from the skin, and then propping the corner of the nail up over the skin edge until the skin heals.
- Oral and topical antibiotics to prevent or heal the infection.
- Safely lancing and draining pockets of pus (the toe is numbed first with a local anesthetic).
- Applying a specially formulated composite material called Onyfix. It serves as a corrective brace for the nail’s growth and can be used to treat recurrent ingrown toenails.
- In more severe cases, surgery may be performed. This can can involve removing a narrow strip down the length of the toenail (partial nail avulsion (PNA), or removing the entire toenail (total nail avulsion (TNA). These procedures may be performed if more conservative, non-surgical treatments don’t work.
- Phenol can be applied to the nail’s root beneath the cuticle to prevent regrowth. The method inhibits nail growth following PNA or TNA.
All treatments from a chiropodist use medical-grade products and a fresh set of sterilized instruments for each client. The sterilization process used by chiropodists will remove and kill all microorganisms, such as fungi, bacteria, viruses, and spores. We also thoroughly cleanse your feet with an alcohol solution at the beginning of every appointment.