Welcome to The Ingrown Toenail (and Fingernail) Treatment Guide

Find Relief for Your Painful Ingrown Nail

Mention ingrown toenail to any group and you are bound to hear a chorus of commiseration.  What you won’t hear as much of are people who have successfully treated them.  Finding reliable, thorough information on treatment options can be difficult and overwhelming.  As a result, many people live with unnecessary toenail pain.

Now, however, with the comparison guide we’ve created you can readily compare treatment options and choose the one that is right for YOU.  Real, long term relief is yours for the taking.

Who Is This Site For?

This website is for anyone who suffers from pressure sensitive or ingrown toenails.  However, people with diabetes or any other condition that impairs circulation should NOT perform any of the treatments discussed without first consulting their physician.  Additionally, if your toe is actively infected (think pus and blood), consider seeing a podiatrist (a doctor who specializes in foot health) immediately.  An infected ingrown toenail is serious and you do NOT want that infection to spread!  Finally, this site is geared toward adults and some information may not apply to babies and children.

What Is An Ingrown Toenail?

Ingrown nail most often occurs in the big toenail but can affect any nail including fingernails.  This site talks mostly about toe nails but the same advice can largely be applied to fingernails.  By the strictest definition, an ingrown nail occurs when the nail grows into and eventually punctures the skin next to the nail bed.  While this condition is quite common, perhaps just as common is the incurvated or highly curved toenail.  With a highly curved toenail, the side of the nail may grow straight down into the toe or even hook back under the toenail (referred to as a hooked toenail).  While this condition does not necessarily result in puncturing of the skin, it can create very painful, pressure sensitive nails.  For the sake of simplicity and helping you find relief, we will use the term “ingrown” to refer to both conditions.

What Causes Ingrown Toenails?

We could help you find a temporary solution to your toenail pain without discussing what caused it, but long term relief requires some analysis of your specific problem.  All ingrown toenails are not the same!

IMPROPER TRIMMING OF THE NAILS

This is probably the cause of most truly ingrown nails, the kind that result in puncturing of the skin.  That’s why a step-by-step guide to trimming your toenails seems to the go to fix for the problem.  And unless this is the very first website you’ve visited looking for answers, you’ve surely noticed this.

If you would like a detailed guide to trimming your toenails properly, stay tuned and we’ll have one posted soon.

Ingrown nails caused by improper trimming are usually the easiest to cure and the easiest to prevent with the right knowledge.

SHOES, SOCKS, AND HOSIERY

Some people have nails that are naturally quite curved.  Some people wear shoes or hosiery that are too tight or ill-fitted.  Some people have both.

If you fall into the category of people with naturally curved nails, the deck might be stacked against you but you aren’t out of luck.  If you fall into one of the other two categories, STOP!  :-)  We know, it’s easier said than done.

Most people wear shoes anywhere from 10 to 14 hours per day.  When you throw socks into the equation, that timeframe can dramatically increase.  Let’s picture what that pressure (though seemingly mild) does to a toenail.  You have probably heard the phrase “taking the path of least resistance”.  That is exactly what your nail is doing when it bumps up against pressure from a shoe or sock.  As your nail meets the prolonged and repeated pressure of the shoe or sock, it eventually learns to grow in a different direction…down into your toe!

These are the conditions that result most frequently in the highly curved ingrown toenails.  Depending on the natural shape of the nail and how long the condition has existed, the excessive curve may be only in the front portion of the nail or may start at the root and extend the entire length of the nail.  Additionally, the amount and length or the pressure placed on the nail will influence the degree of curvature.

The more dramatically the nail is curved, the longer correction will take.

How to Fix In Grown Toenails:  Surgery, Over The Counter, and Home Remedies

If you are like many people, you think that your options for treating your ingrown and painful nails are either surgery or to just deal with it.  NOT TRUE!

The below chart outlines available treatments, pros and cons, and approximate costs.  We’ve tried to create the most comprehensive list possible so the options range from home remedy to physician intervention.

 Ingrown Toenail Treatment Comparison Chart

Treatment Description Best For Cost Pros Cons

Soaking With Epsom Salt

Soak feet in warm water with Epsom Salt for 30 minutes 2-4 times daily.  This will reduce pain and inflammation.  Additionally, it will soften the nail and surrounding skin so that the offending piece of nail can be removed. When a sliver or pointed piece of nail is pressing against or has penetrated the skin.  NOTE:  Do not cut side of nail back…only cut straight across to avoid future recurrence or worsening of condition.  <$5.00 Can provide immediate relief of pain.  Simple and inexpensive. May not correct the underlying problem.

Gauze Packing With or Without Antibiotic

After soaking foot to soften nail and surrounding skin, use a metal file or special toenail lifter to lift the offending corner of the nail.  Using gauze or cotton pack under the nail.  Antibiotic ointment, peroxide, or alcohol can be applied to prevent infection. When the ingrown part of the nail and pain are at the front corner of the nail.  <$5.00 Can provide immediate relief of pain.  Simple and inexpensive. May not correct the underlying problem.

Dr. Scholl’s Ingrown Toenail Treatment

Contains a ring to prevent contact with the ingrown area.  Also includes a nail softening gel so that the offending piece of nail can be removed. When a sliver or pointed piece of nail is pressing against or has penetrated the skin.  NOTE:  Do not cut side of nail back…only cut straight across to avoid future recurrence or worsening of condition.  $9.00 – 12.00 Provides barrier between inflamed spot and socks/hosiery. May not correct the underlying problem.

Toe Cap or Sleeve

Gel-filled or silicone sleeve that fits over toe to separate from other toes or socks/shoes. Use with other treatment options to protect the sore toe. $7.00 – 12.00 Keeps toe from further irritation while it is healing.

Toenail Braces:  Adhesive

Resilient strips of a composite material that when glued to the top of the toenail gently lift the sides of the nail upward. Used to reshape/retrain curved and highly curved toenails to grow in a flatter, more natural shape. $5.00 – $20.00 each Provides immediate and long term pain relief.  Corrects the underlying problem if pain is due to curved or highly curved nails.  Can be polished over to become virtually invisible. Some people with very thin or weak toenails may not be suitable candidates.

Toenail Braces:  Hooked

Stainless steel wire hooks around sides of toenail.  Light tension gently lifts the sides of the nail upward. Used to reshape/retrain curved and highly curved toenails to grow in a flatter, more natural shape.  About $50 Provides immediate and long term pain relief.  Corrects the underlying problem if pain is due to curved or highly curved nails. Can be very difficult to find depending on country of residence.  Not easily camouflaged like the adhesive braces.

Ingrown Toenail Surgery:  Partial or Full Removal

Podiatrist surgically removes a thin section of the toenail along the side of the nail or the entire nail.  Local anesthesia is used.  Patient changes bandages until the toe heals, usually 4-6 weeks.  Nail will normally regrow. When other treatment options have been exhausted.  $300 and up but most insurance covers part or all of the surgery cost. Removes the offending section of nail. Risk of post operative infection.  Not permanent solution.  Can result in deformity of regrown nail.

Ingrown Toenail Surgery:  Partial or Full Removal with Phenol

Podiatrist surgically removes a thin section of the toenail along the side of the nail or the entire nail.  A chemical (often Phenol) is applied to the root of the nail to prevent regrowth.  Local anesthesia is used.  Patient changes bandages until the toe heals, usually 4-6 weeks. When other treatment options have been exhausted.  $300 and up but most insurance covers part or all of the surgery cost. Removes the offending section of nail.  Permanent in most cases. Risk of post operative infection.  Aesthetically less pleasing results than more conservative methods.

 

References:

Mayo Clinic

American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons

 

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  • Classic Ingrown Toenail
  • Curved Ingrown Toenail