Ingrown Toenail Treatment Overview
First steps to consider
- An ingrown toenail can usually be treated at home.
- Soak the toenail in warm soapy water, and apply an OTC antibiotic ointment to the toe.
When you may need a provider
- You have redness, swelling, or discharge from the toe.
- It hasn’t improved with about 5 days of home treatments.
Go to the ER or call 911 if you have any of the following symptoms:
- The redness is moving up the foot.
- Fever, chills, feeling sick
The suppliers listed follow Buoy’s clinical guidelines, but listing the suppliers does not constitute a referral or recommendation by Buoy. When you click on the link and/or engage with these services Buoy will be compensated.
When to see a healthcare provider
If you have tried warm soaks and OTC antibacterial ointment for about 5–7 days with no improvement in your symptoms, you should see your healthcare provider.
Other reasons to see a provider:
- The skin around the nail is red and filled with pus. You may have an infection.
- You have diabetes. You should always see your healthcare provider or podiatrist if you think you have an ingrown toenail. People with diabetes are at higher risk of foot infections.
- If you have a fever, spreading redness, or are unable to walk or put pressure on the foot, go to urgent care or the ER.
Your healthcare provider will examine your foot. If the skin around the nail is infected with pus, they will perform an incision to drain the pus. A culture of the pus may be sent to a laboratory for testing.
What to expect from your visit
After examining your foot, your healthcare provider will determine how serious the ingrown toenail is.
The provider may discuss a procedure that removes the ingrown toenail. This is done by numbing the toe and removing part of the nail. In some cases a referral to a podiatrist (foot doctor) is needed. If you have an infection, you may be given antibiotics. A topical steroid cream can help in some cases.
If you regularly get ingrown toenails, your healthcare provider may recommend permanent removal of the part of the nail that is digging into the skin. This is called a chemical matricectomy. During the procedure, the provider removes part of the nail and uses a chemical called phenol to destroy the matrix (the part of the nail that results in nail growth). This prevents ingrown toenails from recurring.
Prescription medications for an ingrown toenail
- Bactroban ointment (Mupirocin)
- Cephalexin (Keflex)
- Sulfamethoxazole-Trimethoprim (Bactrim)
- Triamcinolone cream
Types of providers
- A primary care provider can evaluate and treat an ingrown toenail and an infection from the ingrown toenail.
- A podiatrist can also evaluate and treat an ingrown toenail and perform toenail removal with chemical matricectomy if necessary.
How to fix an ingrown toenail
You can often treat an ingrown toenail at home.
- The main treatment is soaking your toe in warm water for about 20 minutes, 2–4 times a day.
- Avoid wearing tight-fitting shoes.
- Apply topical antibacterial OTC ointment to the toe.
- OTC steroid cream like hydrocortisone can reduce swelling.
- You can also take OTC pain relievers like acetaminophen or ibuprofen, if needed, for the pain.
- You can try placing a piece of cotton or dental floss under the nail to help lift the nail from the skin, which should relieve pain.
- Bacitracin ointment
- Acetaminophen (Tylenol)
- Ibuprofen (Advil, Motrin)
- Hydrocortisone cream
- Prevent ingrown toenails by cutting the nail straight across rather than rounded.
- Do not cut your nails too short.
- Avoid tight-fitting shoes as the pressure may cause the nail to grow into the skin.
- Wearing well fitted sneakers during physical activity can help prevent ingrown toenails.