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Ingrown Toenail Treatment Overview

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Care Plan


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.
See home treatments

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.
See care providers

Emergency Care

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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

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All treatments for ingrown toenail
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Read more about ingrown toenail care options

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.

Getting diagnosed

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)
  • Doxycycline
  • 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.
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Frequently asked questions