Simply put, an ingrown toenail is one in which the nail has curved into and penetrated the flesh of the toe. This results in the development of a granuloma and an inflammation of the nail bed. A granuloma is a collection of cells that the body uses to try to wall off the bacteria that collect in the flesh. This results in the characteristic redness and swelling seen with an ingrown toenail. If left untreated, an ingrown toenail can become infected -- resulting in more pain.
Home Treatments for Ingrown Toenails
If you recognize the development of an ingrown toenail early, you can probably treat the problem at home without medical intervention. The following home treatments for the ingrown toenail will help you relieve the pain safely and effectively.
1. Soak Your Feet
- At the first sign of an ingrown toenail, soak your feet several times a day in warm, soapy water. Soak for 15-20 minutes each time. Soaking allows the toenail to get soft.
- When finish soaking, use a clean towel to dry the foot.
- You can clip the toenail which is long enough and trim it straight across. Remember not to cut the nail too short since it will agitate the injured toe.
In addition to cleaning out harmful bacteria, this treatment may reduce both swelling and pain. You can try following remedies to clean the area and prevent infections when soaking. Add one of these things to the water:
- Lemon juice
- Antibacterial soap
- Epsom's salt
- A cup white vinegar
- 10 drops of calendula to a cup of hot water
- A few drops of lavender or tea tree oil
- A few cap of iodine
2. Use Dental Floss or Soft Cotton
After soaking, it is helpful to use a metal to lift the ingrown edge and put a small piece of cotton or waxed dental floss between the skin and the nail. Remember to change floss or cotton daily. Use this remedy until the redness and pain subside.
This method reduces pressure and pain caused by the condition and encourages the toenail to grow away from the flesh. Be sure not to cut into the flesh of your toes with the dental floss.
3. Apply Topical Antibiotic Cream
After you finish soaking your feet, put some over-the-counter, topical antibiotic cream around the edges of the toenail. Remember, that infection is a very real possibility and the antibiotic cream may help any infection that has started.
4. Choose Proper Footwear
First, choose your shoes wisely. Make sure the toe boxes are wide enough so that you can wiggle your toes with your shoes on. Take your shoes off when you have the opportunity or wear open-toed shoes if the dress code allows. Sandals may be a great option. Socks that are too small can compress your toes as much as poorly fitting shoes so be sure the socks you wear are the right size.
5. Ignore Old Wives’ Tales
There is a popular home remedy that calls for cutting a V into the top of the toenail. At best, this treatment does not work; at worst, it may cause more problems. The likelihood of infection is high when you try to do home surgery on the toenail yourself. Besides the above home treatments for ingrown toenails, ignoring old wives' tales is also a way.
6. Consider OTC Pain Killers
Pain of an ingrown toenail can typically be relieved by taking over-the-counter pain medications such as aspirin, Tylenol, or ibuprofen. If your pain is not relieved by these medications, it is time to see your healthcare provider.
7. Watch the Place You Walk
Walking on dirty or uneven ground will injure your toes and lead to an increased risk of ingrown toenails. Avoid wearing scandals when you are out since bacteria will infect the injured toenails.
8. Check Your Feet
Exam your feet every day when you take shower or bath. Look for signs of redness, swelling or drainage around your toenails.
If the home treatments for ingrown toenails are not effective, your toe pain is getting worse and signs of infection become apparent, it may be time to see your healthcare provider. Medical treatments for an ingrown toenail may include slightly lifting the toenail to separate it from the skin, removal of part of your toenail, removal of all of your toenail and the infected tissue around it, and a prescription for antibiotics.
Preventions of Ingrown Toenails
The best treatment for an ingrown toenail is prevention. There are several things you can do to prevent ingrown toenails:
1. Make Sure Your Shoes Fit Well
Shoes with pointed toes tend to cramp your feet too much -- save those shoes for special occasions! On a daily basis, either go without shoes or wear shoes with a wide toe box.
2. Cut Your Toenails Straight Across
Cutting the nails in a curve means that part of the nail edge is below the flesh and, therefore, more likely to become overgrown by skin. Once it is overgrown, the nail can easily cut into the skin.
3. Keep Nails at a Moderate Length
When you cut your toenails, be sure they are slightly longer than the end of your toe.
4. Seek Professional Care for Your Feet
If you are a diabetic or if you have bad circulation to your feet, let a professional take care of your toenails. Let the person doing your foot care know that they must take special care when cutting your nails. Be sure the person taking care of your feet is using sterile instruments.