How Can I Fix My Ingrown Toenail? [Updated 2021]
Ingrown Toenails are a Real Pain!
Here at Dynamic Podiatry we see hundreds of ingrown toenails each year.
Many people are scared to get them seen to because they are worried about the pain.
What I’ll talk about in this post:
- The most common causes of ingrown toenails,
- Things you can do to prevent ingrown toenails,
- Some simple things that you can do at home to try to get some relief until you see a podiatrist,
- What the consequences of not treating an ingrown toenail can be,
- What a Podiatrist will do to help you get rid of your ingrown toenail, temporarily or permanently, it’s your choice!
Be sure to watch the video below to see me remove a real ingrown toenail without any pain and very quickly.
What Causes Ingrown Toenails?
Some of the most common causes of ingrown toenails are the following:
- Cutting your toenails too short or too far down the side.
When you cut your toenails down the side, you can’t see what the edge looks like.
A lot of the time you will leave a sharp little spike which once you start walking around will break the skin, causing both pain and allowing infection to start,
- Poorly fitting shoes or socks – yes even socks can do it if they’re tight enough!
Poorly fitting shoes and socks put too much pressure on the nail plate.
This can cause it to splinter and become ingrown, once again causing pain and infection,
- Activity that involves running, walking in trail boots or kicking a football.
This one falls into the general group of “traumatic events” that can cause your toenails to crack and break and almost inevitably leaving a sharp spike to stab the soft skin of the sulcus.
Most people who play sports or run or walk a lot will get damage to their big toenails and sometimes the lesser ones.
As I would never discourage people from playing sport or exercising, then we need to look at prevention and cures.
How Can I Prevent Ingrown Toenails?
There are some very simple things you can do to reduce to chance of getting ingrown toenails:
- Correct Cutting – this is definitely the biggest key to preventing ingrown toenails. By following the natural curve of the skin of your toe (not quite straight), you will make sure that the corners remain outside of the skin and that you won’t leave a sharp spike to cut the skin,
- Wear well fitting shoes – All shoes should have a similar shape to your foot! This sounds so obvious, but when we look at some of the shoes people wear with sharp points at the end, it makes you wonder. Tapered shoes will apply pressure to your toes and can cause trauma which can result in an ingrown nail,
- Protective footwear – depending on what you are doing, protective shoes can be crucial. If you are playing a sport where you kick the ball, then you’ll need a nice reinforced toe cap either with leather or a type of rubber to protect your toes from repeated trauma.
If you are walking a lot of rocky trails over rough ground then a nice firm trail boot will be the ticket. Make sure that they fit very comfortably because they won’t “wear in” very easily (we don’t believe in wearing in shoes anyway).
Obviously many jobs require steel or kevlar caps for protection, but the funny thing is that we find many people who do similar work for enjoyment in their home shed don’t wear them! The same hazards require the same protection.
Relief for Ingrown Toenails at Home
I want to be very clear in this section – these tips are only to be used to tide you over until you can get in to see the podiatrist, they won’t fix the problem!
- Iodine tincture – your best friend! A little bottle of Betadine or other brand of iodine tincture can be a life saver. Bacteria cannot live with iodine so apply a few drops on the area after every time your toe gets wet and before bed.
Note – some people have allergies to Iodine and are advised not to use it.
- Salt water bathing – if your toe is sore and swollen, then this one can be very effective.
We recommend one table spoon of salt for each litre of warm water, bath the toe for 5-7 minutes. This causes the fluid to leave the tissue by osmosis – water moves from a lower concentration to a higher concentration of salts.
Note – do NOT use Sea water. Whilst the ocean can be great for your body, it’s not good for open wounds. Many bacteria and other bugs live in the ocean.
- Keep your toe dressed with a simple dressing when your are out of the house or wearing shoes.
- Always, always after it gets wet – dry it down, clean with salt water and apply iodine tincture.
N.B. If you get a large area of redness covering your foot with a distinct outline, or you see red lines going up your foot or leg – get to a doctor or hospital immediately for antibiotic care. Depending on the severity you may need intravenous antibiotics.
What are The Dangers of Doing Nothing?
It is vital that the infection is resolved before it develops further into cellulitis or even worse osteomyelitis (bone infection) or sepsis (blood poisoning which can result in death).
Now this is the scary end of the scale and doesn’t happen to most people, but especially people with immune system issues or Diabetes or vascular or heart disease need to be extremely careful.
If you see the top of your foot getting red and swollen or even worse a red stripe going up the foot or leg – SEEK MEDICAL HELP IMMEDIATELY.
In these situations antibiotics are crucial but when the infection is localised (as it will most often be) antibiotics are not as helpful.
To get full resolution of the problem we need to treat the cause, the rough nail spicule causing the hole in the skin and the following infection and pain.
So What Do Podiatrists Do?
Podiatrists are the best equipped health professionals to treat the root cause of ingrown toenails.
We also have the correct tools, typical a tiny chisel like blade to remove the portion of nail with minimal irritation to the surrounding skin.
Often the piece of nail can be removed with minimal pain (even without anaesthetic!) giving immediate relief.
To see how painlessly we can remove an ingrown nail spicule – check out the video of me removing one below.
If necessary we can administer a local anaesthetic which will numb the whole toe, allowing for the jagged portion of nail to be removed painlessly.