According to the IQWiG (Institute of Quality and Efficiency in Healthcare), of 100 people who see their doctor for foot health issues, on average, 20 are visiting for an ingrown toenail.
Our bodies are well-oiled machines. If a condition comprises the health of one part, it causes all kinds of problems for all the others. To keep our whole body healthy, we have to keep our feet healthy. Fortunately, treatment for ingrown toenails is typically non-invasive. If caught early, even home remedies are successful.
Keep reading for four home remedies for ingrown toenails.
What Is an Ingrown Toenail?
Ingrown toenails are the most common nail impairment, outranking other impairments like crumbling nails, fungal infections, and thickened nails, and often occur on the big toe.
An individual can tell they are developing an ingrown toenail by how the corners on one or both sides of the nail curve (instead of straight out), digging into the surrounding fleshy tissue as the nail grows. Even in its early stages, an ingrown toenail is uncomfortable, if not painful.
While ingrown can affect anyone, the most common two subpopulations that the condition impacts are:
- Teenagers and Young Adults – increased sweating from hormonal fluctuations (puberty) and sports/athletics.
- Adults 65 Years and Older – increased risk of diabetes and reduced flexibility, inhibiting consistent at-home foot care, which is compounded by aged-related nail thickening.
Additional risk factors include:
- Chronic Reduced Blood Flow (in the legs),
- Genetics (pincer toenails),
- Heart or Kidney Failure,
- Overweight/Obesity, and
- Medications for Cancer Treatment.
Common ingrown toenail causes that apply to the general population (predisposed or not) include:
- Excessively Sweaty Feet,
- Improper Nail Trimming (too short and/or rounded at the edges),
- Repeated Foot Trauma (e.g., stubbing your toe), and
- Shoes That Are Too Tight (especially in the toe box).
Symptoms of an Ingrown Toenail
The symptoms of an ingrown toenail depend on its severity. However, individuals may experience the following:
- Pain and Inflammation – the nail grows into the surrounding flesh.
- “Proud Flesh” (i.e., granuloma) – the inflamed flesh grows along the nail edge.
- Bleeding and Weeping – the granuloma begins growing over the nail.
When doctors evaluate a patient, they use their symptoms to classify the ingrown toenail in one of three stages—a stage one ingrown toenail causing inflammation and pain to a stage three ingrown toenail causing chronic inflammation of the surrounding flesh and weeping/pus drainage.
4 Ingrown Toenail Home Remedies
Can you treat an ingrown toenail at home? Yes!
However, it is essential to remember that the probability of successful home treatment depends on the severity of the ingrown toenail and whether you have a pre-existing health condition predisposing you to complications.
If you suspect you have an ingrown toenail but are otherwise healthy, your first step to treating it at home is to prevent infection by keeping the area clean and dry.
Next, you may choose to consider one of the following home remedies:
1. Soak your feet in soapy water.
To help combat any swelling and pain, try soaking the affected foot for about 15 – 20 minutes three to four times daily by submerging your foot completely in a basin of warm, soapy water.
Note: Adding Epsom salt may enhance pain relief.
After the 15 – 20 minutes are up, thoroughly dry your feet. You may also apply an antibacterial cream. While it is optional, antibacterial will help reduce the risk of infection.
2. Soak your feet in apple cider vinegar.
Apple cider vinegar is an age-old folk remedy, and although scientific data is limited, people have used apple cider vinegar for ages, believing it to have:
- Antiseptic, and
- Pain-relieving properties.
Swap soap (see remedy #1) for ¼ cup apple cider vinegar, adding it to a basin of warm water. Next, soak the affected foot for 15 – 20 minutes.
When your foot is done soaking, dry it thoroughly. You may also opt to apply an antibacterial cream.
Repeat this process once daily.
3. Apply a toe cap.
Toe caps are padded toe covers that act as shields for the ingrown toenail and the surrounding flesh as you apply other self-care methods to resolve the condition. Protecting the site will help keep the ingrown toenail from worsening and mitigate pain.
Along with cushioning the irritated area, you can find medicated toe caps, which come with a gel that softens the nail, easing the trimming process once the nail begins growing straight out.
4. Wear the appropriate shoes and socks.
Give your toes some space! Wearing shoes and socks that are too tight places pressure on the toes in two ways:
- Shoes that are too narrow exert force from either side of the toe box, pushing your toes toward each other.
- The crowded toes press against each other, producing additional pressure that may compromise one or more of your toenails.
We recommend reducing pressure around your toes as much as possible during the healing process, such as swamping shoes for sandals. However, when sandals are not an option, find a few pairs with plenty of room and breathability.
Make an Appointment With Expert Podiatrists
At The Foot & Ankle Center, you’ll find St. Louis area podiatrists you can trust. From ingrown toenails and other toenail impairments to various injuries, complications from chronic health conditions, and more, The Foot & Ankle Center treats it all.
To schedule a visit with one of our skilled medical professionals, please submit our online form at https://www.facstl.com/request-appointment/.
You may also reach us by email at firstname.lastname@example.org and by phone at (314) 487-9300.