Ingrown toenails — officially known as onychocryptosis — happen when your toenail grows into the skin that surrounds your nail. They’re common among athletes, especially runners and ballet dancers, since snug shoes can increase your risk of developing an ingrown nail.
However, athletes aren’t the only ones affected by ingrown nails. They can affect anyone who suffers from nail trauma, cuts their nails too short, or wears too-tight shoes. Regardless of what causes your ingrown nail, the result is inflammation, redness, throbbing pain, tenderness, and an increased risk of infection.
If you’re one of the many people affected by an ingrown nail, you might wonder whether an ingrown toenail will heal on its own without medical intervention.
Below, our team of specialists at Manhattan Podiatry Associates, PC, reveals the factors that influence the healing process of an ingrown toenail and discusses when seeking professional help in our Midtown and Downtown Manhattan offices may be necessary.
Understanding ingrown nails
Ingrown toenails occur when the edge or corner of a toenail burrows into the surrounding skin instead of over it. Although any toe can be affected, the big toe is most commonly involved. Improper nail trimming, tight shoes, foot trauma, and genetic factors (such as having pincer toenails) can contribute to the development of ingrown toenails.
Initially, an ingrown toenail may cause mild discomfort, redness, and swelling. In some cases, at-home treatment can help heal an ingrown nail, but not in all cases. If left untreated, the condition can worsen, leading to increased pain, infection, and the formation of an abscess.
While some mild cases of ingrown toenails may resolve without medical intervention, others might require treatment to promote healing.
Factors influencing natural healing
Several factors come into play when determining if an ingrown toenail will heal naturally:
The severity of your ingrown toenail is a crucial factor in natural healing. Mild cases with minimal pain, swelling, and redness have a higher chance of resolving without intervention.
Proper at-home care can assist in the natural healing process. Soaking your foot in warm water, using over-the-counter pain relievers, and applying antibiotic ointment can alleviate symptoms and promote self-healing.
Tip: when soaking your foot, add Castile soap and/or Epsom salt to your foot soak. Soak your feet for 15-20 minutes.
Correctly trimming your toenail is essential. Cutting your nails straight across and avoiding excessively short trimming can prevent further ingrowth and aid in the healing process.
Wearing shoes that are too tight or too short can contribute to ingrown nails. To help treat ingrown nails at home, wear comfortable shoes with sufficient room for your toes. Not only does this help relieve pressure on the affected area and allow for natural healing, but it also helps prevent future ingrown nails.
When to seek professional help
While some ingrown toenails can heal naturally, certain situations necessitate medical assistance. Consider podiatric care if:
You spot the signs of an infection
If your ingrown toenail becomes infected, characterized by increasing pain, pus, or drainage, red streaks, or fever, podiatric care is required. Infections can worsen without proper treatment and may require antibiotics.
You struggle with recurring ingrown nails
If you frequently experience ingrown toenails or have a chronic condition like diabetes that affects your foot health, skip the at-home care and give us a call. Our team provides appropriate treatment and helps prevent future occurrences.
You have severe pain
If the pain from your ingrown toenail is severe, persistent, or significantly affecting your daily activities, let us know. Treating an ingrown nail can help with pain management as well as helping to prevent future ingrown nails.
Here at Manhattan Podiatry Associates, our team provides many different options for treating ingrown nails. After examining your feet and reviewing your symptoms, we may recommend:
- Antibiotics, either oral or topical
- Partial nail avulsion to remove the edge of your ingrown nail under local anesthesia
- Lifestyle modifications, such as guidance on soaking your nail
- Ingrown nail surgery to remove the nail root
Don’t let ingrown nails keep you on the sidelines. Get the lasting relief you need! Call our New York City location of your choice or book an appointment online today.