An ingrown toenail is a condition that almost affects everyone. It is very painful to deal with. It occurs when your toenail curls and starts growing inside the skin surrounding it due to a number of reasons. The skin then reddens, swells, and causes pain. The skin can drain yellowish fluid or even attract infections. If a person has an ingrown toenail, a simple movement like walking becomes difficult. Children with this condition often limp to avoid putting pressure on their affected toe.
Causes of Ingrown Toenail
- It is usually caused when there is an imbalance between the enlargement of the nail skin and the nail size.
- Improper trimming of the toenail can lead to an ingrown toenail.
- If you put a lot of pressure on your toes while doing some activities like ballet dance, kickboxing, playing football, etc., your toe might pierce the skin.
- Toe injuries may also cause an ingrown toenail.
- If you wear shoes that are too tight, the toenail might curl inwards.
- Aggressive pedicure or cutting nails too short may also trigger the nail to grow inside the skin.
- Some people’s toenails curl inward naturally, maybe due to heredity.
- Perspiration in the foot causes the skin to soften. The toenail might pierce the softened skin and become an ingrown toenail. Athletes and adolescents are more prone to develop this condition as they perspire more.
Symptoms of Ingrown Toenails
- You would experience pain in one or both sides of your nail.
- The area surrounding the toenail will be red.
- There would be swelling in the area surrounding the toenail.
- There could be the presence of pus which is a yellowish liquid.
- You may see blood coming out of the corner of your toenail.
- If your toddler or child suffers from an ingrown toenail, you will see them limping to prevent pain.
Who are More Prone to Develop Ingrown Toenails?
- Athletes who play sports that require legwork like soccer, basketball, tennis, etc for long hours.
- People who maintain poor foot hygiene
- People with toe deformities like hammertoes, flatfoot, bunions, and abnormally long toes.
- People who are obese, have diabetes or suffer from heart, kidney or thyroid problems as these problems cause foot swelling.
- People suffering from arthritis.
- People who have hyperhidrosis or excessive sweating of their feet.
- If there is a fungal infection in the nail.
Home Remedies on How to Fix an Ingrown Toenail
This temporary condition induces a lot of pain, which may hamper your daily routine. Here are some tips on how to treat an ingrown toenail. You can also read about the home remedies to treat stomach ache.
1. Soak in warm water
To reduce swelling in the affected area and ease the pain, you should soak your affected foot in warm water for twenty minutes, three times a day. You can add castile soap and Epsom salt for added relief.
2. Soak in apple cider vinegar
Prepare a tub with warm water and add one-fourth cup of apple cider vinegar. Soak your feet for twenty minutes daily, and dry your foot after soaking. Apple cider vinegar helps because it has anti-inflammatory, antiseptic, and pain-relieving ability.
3. Use antibiotic ointment
You can apply antibiotic creams and ointments to fasten healing and reduce the risk of getting an infection to the affected toenail. These are usually applied up to three times a day. The ointments include Polysporin, Bactroban, and Neosporin. But keep the affected area bandaged after applying the ointments.
4. Avoid wearing shoes
During the healing of your ingrown toenail, do not wear shoes and socks, and wear sandals instead. This will ensure that your affected foot experiences minimal pressure.
If you do not have an ingrown toenail, avoid wearing tight-fitting shoes and socks. There should be ample space in your toe bed.
5. Apply essential oils
You can apply peppermint oil or tea tree oil on your ingrown toenail. While peppermint oil will give a soothing effect, its antimicrobial properties fight with infection. Tea tree oil, on the other hand, prevents infection due to its antifungal and antibacterial properties.
You can also use coconut oil as it has multiple medicinal benefits. This is because it contains medium-chain fatty acids like caprylic and lauric acid. These fatty acids have analgesic (pain-relieving), anti-inflammatory and antifungal properties. Coconut oil will catalyze the process of healing and protect your toenail against infections.
6. Put on turmeric paste
Make a paste of turmeric and water. Apply it on the affected area for 2-3 times a day. The presence of curcumin in turmeric has an antimicrobial and anti-inflammatory effect. Turmeric also speeds up the healing process and soothes the ingrown toenail pain.
7. Soak in a hydrogen peroxide solution
Prepare a diluted solution using warm water and half a cup of 3% hydrogen peroxide. Dip your feet in the solution for fifteen minutes, three times a day. It works because hydrogen peroxide acts as a disinfectant, and is antifungal and antibacterial in nature.
Warm water will help relieve swelling and pain, and hydrogen peroxide will protect your ingrown toenail from contracting infections.
8. Use a toe protector or brace
A toe protector acts as a cushioning barrier for your ingrown toenail. It is a ring that fits around your ingrown toenail. Some protectors come with a medicated gel that softens the toenail.
A toe brace is an adhesive, thin, composite material and is glued on top of your affected area. They lift the nail edges as the nail grows, preventing an ingrown toenail. People who are prone to developing ingrown toenails frequently should use toe brace.
Medical Treatment for Ingrown Toenail
Usually, by following these home remedies you should be able to get rid of this painful condition. In case you do not and the pain and swelling persist along with drainage of pus or blood, you should consult a doctor.
People who have diabetes, poor circulation in the foot, or nerve damage in the leg or foot should especially pay attention to their ingrown toenail. If left unattended by a medical professional, this condition can further complicate the situation.
The doctor may remove the part of the nail that is pushing into your skin. They may also need to remove your underlying nail bed to prevent the coming back of your problem. Some doctors also insert a cotton piece under your nail to stop it from poking your skin. It is important to regularly change the cotton wool.
As the foot is usually surrounded by moisture and warmth while wearing shoes, it becomes a breeding ground for several bacteria like Candida, Staphylococcus, Dermatophytes, Pseudomonas, and Trichophyton. The ingrown toenail would cause a break in the skin, which can invite these bacteria. If the bacteria enter, they will lead to infection-causing serious problems like cellulitis, chronic pain, disfigurement, and bone infection.
The doctor just has to look at the area to diagnose this problem. A look by an untrained eye may mistake tumor, fungal infection, and trauma for an ingrown toenail.
- The doctor may look at your medical history to find more about the problem. They conduct X-Rays to find out how deep if your nail dug inside the skin.
- They will also ask about any injury in your affected foot, last tetanus immunization, and other medical problems.
- The doctor would then recommend you to keep the area clean and dry as well as prescribe medication.
Surgery for ingrown toenail removal
The doctor may conduct a small surgery if your condition does not improve or you want instant relief. The expert may remove the offending nail corner. For this procedure, the doctor will numb your toe and then narrow down your toenail. They may place a cotton pad under the remaining nail to prevent ingrown toenails. This procedure is 98% effective for preventing ingrown toenails in the future.
If your ingrown nail is caused by thickening of the toenail, the doctor may remove the nail completely. This procedure is called matrixectomy. A dose of local anesthesia will be given before the removal of the nail bed. This procedure is performed on those whose ingrown nails are recurrent.
It usually takes six months for a partially removed toenail to be back to normal and up to a year for the completely removed nail to grow back.
- Keep the area dry and clean.
- Keep your foot lifted to avoid pain.
- Take medicines on time.
- Dress the affected area using a bandage after cleaning it and applying ointment until necessary.
- You can expect to be back on your feet in two-fifteen days, depending on your wound.
Preventive Tips for Ingrown Toenail
- Trim your toenails straight: Never curve the tip or your nails to match with the shape of your toe. If you are at a pedicurist, ask them to trim your toenails in a straight line instead of the usual curve.
If your feet have poor blood flow and you cannot trim your nails due to some condition, visit a podiatrist regularly to get your toenails trimmed.
- Maintain moderate toenail length: Do not over-cut your toenails. Keep the length moderate. If your nails are too small, the pressure on your toes from your shoes may cause the nail to grow inwards.
- Wear proper fit shoes: Different people have different foot shapes and sizes. It is necessary to buy the shoes that fit you perfectly. Some people have damaged nerves in their feet and they are not able to sense the tight-fitting of the shoe. They should buy shoes only from shoe stores.
Ingrown toenails are very painful and discomforting. The above-mentioned home remedies to heal the problem are easy to incorporate. Follow the preventive tips to avoid the condition completely.