An ingrown toenail happens when the edge of a toenail grows into the skin. The condition is usually harmless, but it can cause pain, redness and swelling on the toe. Sometimes a small amount of pus can appear. In extreme cases, an ingrown toenail can lead to infection that can spread to the bone. An ingrown toenail usually occurs on the big toe, but any nail can become ingrown.

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What causes ingrown toenails?

Ingrown toenails can happen to anyone, but there are two leading causes: poorly fitting shoes and toenails that are not trimmed correctly. Some people have naturally curved toenails, which are more likely to become ingrown. Toe injuries and trauma to the toenail can also cause ingrown toenails.

How are ingrown toenails treated?

People with diabetes, nerve damage in the leg or foot or poor blood circulation are at a higher risk of developing complications with an ingrown toenail. If you have any of these conditions with an ingrown toenail, it’s important to seek ingrown toenail treatment from a healthcare provider.

In most cases, however, ingrown toenails do not require medical treatment. Most ingrown toenails can be treated at home by following these steps:

  • Soak the foot a few times a day in a warm Epsom salt bath.
  • After the soak, thoroughly dry the foot, and apply antiseptic ointment and a bandage to the toe.
  • Wear comfortable shoes, such as sneakers or sandals, until the ingrown toenail goes away.
  • Do not try to remove any part of the infected nail at home.

If the ingrown toenail does not improve after a few days of home treatment, make an appointment to see a healthcare provider. A healthcare provider may cut the infected toenail or prescribe medication, such as a topical ointment. In some cases, antibiotics may be needed to treat an infection.

If the ingrown toenail keeps coming back, your healthcare provider may recommend ingrown toenail surgery, which is a simple procedure done in a doctor’s office to remove part of the nail. As part of the procedure, the doctor may use a chemical to destroy the root of the nail.

How can you prevent ingrown toenails?

The best way to stop an ingrown toenail from forming is to correctly trim your toenails. When trimming toenails, follow these steps:

  • Before trimming, soak your toes for a few minutes to soften the nails.
  • Use toenail clippers.
  • Cut nails straight across.
  • Don’t cut nails too short.

You can also prevent ingrown toenails by not wearing shoes that are too tight or narrow in the toe box.

If you have an ingrown toenail and need treatment, CareNow® urgent care can help. Locate the nearest CareNow® urgent care clinic to set up a visit. Minimize your wait time with our Web Check-In®.

Our CareNow® urgent care clinics are open seven days a week and welcome walk-in patients. Or, try our Web Check-In® feature to avoid wait times from the comfort of your home.

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