Foot & Ankle Specialists Serving the Conejo Valley

Caring for an Ingrown Toenail

An ingrown toenail (onychogryphosis) is a common podiatric problem that can be painful and, at times, impossible to ignore. These occur when a piece of your nail grows or pierces into the flesh of the toe. This can also happen when the skin grows over the toenail incorrectly, resulting in discomfort. The big toe is where damage will most likely be detected, but it can occur on other toenails as well.

Infection can come from several possible sources, including but not limited to: the type of shoes you wear, poor foot hygiene, genetic predisposition, or if you play athletic sports that require you to repeatedly blow force onto your feet (for example, soccer). According to the National Health Services (NHS), ingrown toenails are most frequent in patients that typically have sweaty feet and older individuals with thickened toenails. If left untreated, deeper infection and other health-related issues may arise, so it’s critical to be aware of any potential warning signs.

What Are the Symptoms of an Ingrown Toenail?

The most common signs and symptoms of an ingrown toenail are pain, soreness, swelling, and redness at the margins of the nail.

Early-stage symptoms can include:

  • Mild swelling
  • Skin next to nail becomes tender
  • Fluid buildup around the toe
  • Feels warm to the touch

If the toenail becomes infected, symptoms may include:

  • Severe swelling
  • White or yellow-colored discharge
  • Bleeding
  • Overgrowth of the skin around the toe

Treating & Preventing Ingrown Toenails

It’s easy to spot an ingrown toenail early, as the pain is quite prevalent. If treated on time, inflammation and swelling are likely to reduce. The type of treatment most suitable for an ingrown toenail will depend on the severity of damage to the nail. If pain and inflammation are mild, at-home treatments are often preferred.

Here are a few tips for treating an ingrown toenail at home:

  1. Soak feet in warm water: Mix 1-2 tablespoons of salt into warm water. Soak your toes for about 15-20 minutes, and repeat 3-4 times throughout the day
  2. Place floss underneath the toenail: Gently lift the corner of your toenail and place a small piece of waxed dental floss underneath to hold the nail away from the skin
  3. Apply antibiotic cream: Rub an antibacterial cream over the infected area to avoid infection
  4. Take pain relievers: To reduce pain, use an over-the-counter medicine like acetaminophen (Tylenol)

For further prevention, you’ll want to check your feet regularly for any signs of corruption. Wash your feet every day and dry them thoroughly; follow with a moisturizer. In addition, cutting your nails straight across is the best way to ensure your nail grows back properly. Invest in a toenail clipper, as they are much wider and are designed to cut straight across, unlike fingernail clippers. Taking the extra care to treat your feet well now could save you trouble and discomfort down the line.

When to See Your Doctor

It’s important to remember there is always an associated risk with DIY medical treatments, as the chance of infection is higher when not serviced by a professional. If at-home treatments don’t respond well or if the infection gets worse, consulting with your doctor may decrease complications. A podiatrist can offer treatment and can remove parts (or all) of the ingrown nail.

To learn more about treatments for ingrown toenails and other preventative measures, call (805) 380-3152 to schedule an appointment today! We can also be reached via our online message form.

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