Ingrown toenails are a fairly common problem. Millions and millions of Americans develop one each year. And if you know a few people who have had them before, you might have heard some conflicting advice about your own:
“Sure, just cut a V in it and it’ll be fine. Worked for me!”
“What, are you crazy!? Get to a podiatrist now!”
So naturally, we get a lot of questions about whether or not you actually can treat your ingrown toenails at home.
So, here’s the answer you’ve been waiting for:
All, right, blog’s over, that’s a wrap!
Just kidding, of course. Let’s unpack this a bit.
In order to really answer this question the way it needs to be answered, there are really three questions you need to ask:
- Can I treat my ingrown toenails at home?
- If so, how do I treat my ingrown toenails at home?
- And even if I can and know how, should I treat my ingrown toenails at home?
Can I Treat My Ingrown Toenails at Home?
Let’s answer this with a very qualified “yes.” In certain circumstances, ingrown toenails can be successfully remedied at home.
What circumstances are those? To be brief:
There’s no sign of an infection.
Untreated ingrown toenails can develop an infection, and that infection can worsen and deepen—potentially reaching the bone.
An infected ingrown toenail is no joke—it could have serious repercussions for your long-term health. At this point home care may no longer be viable and is definitely not recommended.
Signs of infection include spreading redness and swelling, pain, pus under the nail, or even feverishness or chills.
Your ingrown toenail isn’t severe.
A mild ingrown toenail generally doesn’t cause constant agony. Maybe it’s a little sore or tender when you press on it or wear a certain pair of shoes. In this case, home care is usually fine.
However, if the ingrown toenail is severe and causing significant pain—with or without an infection—it’s time to get more experienced help.
You don’t have diabetes (or neuropathy, or poor circulation, or related conditions).
Diabetes inhibits your body’s ability to heal damaged tissue and suppress infection and disease. If you have diabetes (or any other condition that compromises feeling, circulation, or immunity) you should not attempt to treat your ingrown toenail at home.
How Do I Treat My Ingrown Toenails at Home?
Once you’ve determined that your toenails can be treated safely at home, you need to know how to do it.
That guy who told you to cut a V notch in the nail? Sorry, but that flat out doesn’t work.
And although you may have heard that you can prop up the nail with dental floss or clean cotton, that’s probably not a good idea either. It might work, but the increased infection risk generally isn’t worth it.
All you can really do is try to soothe the ingrown toenail and give it some space and time.
Soak your feet in some warm water with a little Epsom salt—15 minutes at a time, a couple of times per day. This should go a long way toward easing the pain and swelling that you’re feeling.
Then, dry your feet and apply a little antibiotic ointment to the area in order to reduce the risk of developing an infection.
Until your toenail starts feeling better, try to avoid putting pressure on the toe. Go barefoot or wear loose-fitting socks at home. Wear open-toed shoes, or at the very least shoes with very roomy toe boxes, while you’re out.
If at any point your ingrown toenail worsens and qualifies under any of the “seek help” conditions above, it’s time to admit defeat and book an appointment with us.
Even If I Can Treat My Ingrown Toenails at Home, Should I?
We’ve already outlined some scenarios where you absolutely should not attempt home care. Diabetes. Infection. Severe pain.
Still, there are reasons why you might consider skipping the home care phase and jumping straight to an appointment with us, even if home care could work and it’s safe to attempt.
The main argument in favor of going to the podiatrist is that professional ingrown toenail care is quick, straightforward, and pretty much painless—and can even provide a permanent solution to the problem for those with recurring ingrown toenails:
- The in-office procedure to remove an ingrown toenail can be conducted in a few minutes in a single appointment, using only a local anesthetic. It is painless.
- If you wish, we can also remove a portion of the underlying nail bed, or matrix. This prevents the edge of toenail we remove from growing back. Your nail will be a little narrower than before, but the recurrence rate drops to nearly 0 percent—a pretty good trade if ingrown toenails have been plaguing you for years.
- By the time the anesthetic has worn off, you should be feeling a lot better.
- Side effects are typically mild and well tolerated. You should be able to go back to basic activities (work, school, driving, etc.) right away with no downtime. Swimming and athletics might require a week or two.
That’s not to say home care isn’t a valid option for those who meet the criteria. Some people would just rather deal with the problem at home if they can. We get that.
But if you’re looking for fast relief, regardless of how serious your ingrown toenail is, we can provide that. And by fixing the ingrown toenail as early as possible, you potentially spare yourself from several extra days of painful symptoms (and the infection risk that goes along with it).
Whatever you decide to do, be safe, be smart, and if you do decide to go with home care please, please call us as soon as possible if your problem does not improve or gets worse.
To schedule an appointment with North Austin Foot & Ankle Institute in Cedar Park or Round Rock, TX, dial (512) 593-2949 today.