Ingrown and Infected Toenail
Treatment and Removal
Ingrown toenails are a common condition in which a corner or side of a toenail grows into the soft flesh surrounding your nail, resulting in pain, redness, swelling, or an infection. Ingrown toenails generally affect your big toes. If you have diabetes or another condition that causes poor blood flow to your feet, you are at greater risk of getting ingrown toenails.
You can often care for ingrown toenails yourself, but if the pain is severe or spreading, see a healthcare provider as soon as possible. Left untreated or undetected, an ingrown toenail can infect the underlying bone and lead to a bone infection.
Complications from an ingrown nail can become severe if you have diabetes which can cause poor blood flow and damaged nerves in your feet. These diabetic conditions can make even a minor injury harder to heal. You want to look out for infection. A difficult-to-heal open sore (a foot ulcer) may require surgery to prevent decay and death of tissue (gangrene). Gangrene can result from an interruption in blood flow to an area of your body.
If you catch the early development of an ingrown toenail early, you can these home remedies:
- Soak your feet in warm water for 15-20 minutes, 3-4 times a day, to reduce the swelling and relieve tenderness
- Place fresh dental floss or cotton under the ingrown edge of the toenail after each soaking to guide the nail growth above the skin edge
- Apply antibiotic cream on the tender area and then bandage the toe
- Wear sensible footwear like open-toed sandals until your toe feels better
- Take over-the-counter pain relievers if needed to ease toe pain
If the above home treatment has not helped your ingrown toenail and your toe tissue is red, painful, and oozing pus, your provider may partially remove some of your toenail. For a more severe ingrown nail (redness, pain and pus), your provider may trim or remove the ingrown portion of the nail. Your toe may be numbed with an anesthetic before this procedure.
If you repeatedly have problems with the same toe, your provider may suggest removing a portion of your nail permanently, along with the underlying tissue (nail bed), to prevent that part of your nail from growing back. This procedure is typically done using a chemical, laser, or other method. You may also need to use a topical or oral antibiotic if the toe is infected.
Common causes of ingrown nails include:
- Wearing shoes that are too tight and either push up against your nails or crowd them together
- Cutting your toenails too short or not straight across
- Injuring your toenail by bumping it or dropping something on it
- Having unusually curved toenails
To help prevent an ingrown toenail:
- Trim your toenails straight across. Do not curve your nails to match the shape of the front of your toe.
- Keep toenails at a moderate length. so they are even with the tips of your toes. Trimmed too short, the pressure from your shoes on your toes can direct a nail to grow into the tissue.
- Wear shoes that fit properly. Shoes that place too much pressure on your toes or scrunch them together may cause a nail to grow into surrounding tissue.
- Wear protective footwear such as steel-toed shoes if you are at risk of injuring your toes.
- Check your feet daily if you have diabetes for signs of ingrown toenails or other foot problems.
See your provider if you:
- Experience severe discomfort in your toe, or pus or redness seem to be spreading
- Have diabetes or another condition that causes poor blood flow to your feet, and you experience any foot soreness or infections
Our Catawba Valley Healthcare providers are here to give you individualized attention and care if you are suffering from any toenail issues. Call us today at (828) 695-5900.