Some people are, unfortunately, more prone to ingrown toenails (medically known as onychocryptosis) than others. This incredibly common and often very painful condition is caused when the side edge of the toenail grows into the skin surrounding your toe. This can happen after an injury, because your shoes are too tight, because of poor foot hygiene, or for any number of reasons. Regardless of the reason, it is essential that you catch and treat the toenail before it becomes infected.
Individuals who are getting ingrown toenails usually feel a bit of pressure at the side of the toenail. Things can quickly progress from there as the edge of the nail begins to cut into the skin, causing a considerable amount of pain. If left untreated the toenail will become red and swollen as infection sets in.
So how can you treat an ingrown toenail at home? Try the following:
Start by soaking your foot in a bath of hot water and salts. Epsom salts are highly recommended but there is no need to run to the store if you don’t have any – the standard salt you keep in the kitchen will work as well. Add a few tablespoons of salt to a bucket or tub of hot water. The water should be as hot as you can handle without burning yourself. Soak your foot for at least 15-20 minutes, if not longer. The soaking process will soften both the toenail and surrounding skin.
After the toenail has softened, use a nail file or wooden pedicure stick to gently lift up the edge of your toenail. This part of the process may be a bit uncomfortable and should be done very slowly in order to ensure you don’t slip and end up stabbing yourself in the area that is already sore. As you lift the edge of your nail you will immediately begin to feel the pressure relieved.
Grab a cotton ball and pull off a small piece. Roll the piece into a small stick. Very gently use your nail file to push the cotton stick under the nail in the area that is ingrown. The cotton will help to keep the nail slightly elevated so that it does not cut into the skin, giving the skin time to heal as the nail grows out. Pack the cotton between the skin and nail at the side of your toe as well so that the skin itself is not pressing directly into the injured area.
Apply antibiotic ointment over the ingrown toenail and wrap the damaged section with a bandage or with a piece of sports tape. You should begin to feel relief almost immediately and most people notice a significant reduction in pain overnight.
In order to prevent infection, soak your foot in salt water 2-3 times per day. You can, of course, soak it more often if you have the time. Replace your cotton splint daily to ensure your toenail isn’t digging into the skin.
The average person experiences complete relief within 3-4 days, but this remedy won’t work for everyone. If your toenail becomes red, swollen, or oozes pus you should seek the advice of an experienced podiatrist. He or she will help you to cut the nail so that it no longer hurts while cleaning out the infection. Once the infection is clear your podiatrist will want to perform a very small, outpatient surgical procedure that involves cutting the side of the nail and destroying the root so that the nail can no longer grow into the nail bed. If you experience frequent ingrown toenails this is a procedure you should strongly consider.
Of course, as the old adage goes, an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure. Make sure your shoes fit properly at all times and you’re likely to be able to avoid getting an ingrown toenail to start with.
Also, if you prefer more homeopathic remedies, try adding a bit of lavender or tea tree oil to your foot soak. Both are known to have antiseptic properties that will aid in healing and prevent infection. Do not, however, place these undiluted oils directly on your injured toe.
Keep your injured toe as clean and dry as possible, applying antibiotic ointments as often as you can, and you’ll soon experience the relief you’ve been dying for!