If you’ve ever had an ingrown toenail, you know the pain that it can cause. Not only that, but it’s annoying because we use our toes in some way or another as part of our usual daily movement, and this use and constant knocking seems to aggravate the nail even more. It makes it more noticeable and seems to last forever!
An ingrown toenail, or onychocryptosis, may occur at any age and is one of the mostly common toenail problems. It can be a painful condition that can become infected if not properly cared for. While more studies need to be conducted, there are a few that suggest a slightly higher male-to-female ratio, particularly in the 14–25 age group — however, it can affect patients of any age.
There are multiple reasons why an ingrown toenail develops, including improper nail-cutting technique, tight-fitting footwear, trauma, anatomical factors like thickening of the nail plate, a pincer-shaped toenail, pressure from abutting digits caused by hallux valgus or lesser toe deformities, the presence of a subungual exostosis, and occasionally, the use of isotretinoin in the treatment of severe acne.
Something that’s often forgotten is that toenail fungus can become part of the problem too. Usually, nail fungus occurs when fungus enters the nail through a small trauma, such as a cut or break, in the nail. Though often a misconception, nail fungus is not caused by poor hygiene — however, if you have an ingrown toenail, you need to be conscious of keeping the area clean.
Luckily, there are many natural ways to get rid of an ingrown toenail on your own without needing a trip to the doctor. Let’s take a look at some more detail on ingrown toenails and how to get rid of them.
How to Get Rid of an Ingrown Toenail
What is an ingrown toenail, and what causes it? It’s a common condition in which the corner or side of a toenail grows into the soft flesh. Many anatomic and behavioral factors are thought to contribute to ingrown toenails, such as improper trimming, repetitive or inadvertent trauma, genetic predisposition, hyperhidrosis, and poor foot hygiene.
Ingrown toenails are classified into three categories: mild (stage 1), moderate (stage 2) and severe (stage 3). Mild cases are characterized by nail-fold swelling, erythema, edema and pain with pressure. Moderate cases are associated with increased swelling, drainage, infection and ulceration of the nail fold. The most severe cases of ingrown toenail exhibit chronic inflammation and granulation, as well as marked nail-fold hypertrophy.
Regardless, the result is pain, redness, swelling and, sometimes, an infection. Ingrown toenails usually affect the big toe, though other toes can also be affected. Most often, ingrown toenails can be self-treated. However, if the pain is severe or spreading, you may need to check in with your doctor to relieve your discomfort and help you avoid further complications.
How can you be sure you have an ingrown toenail? If you have any of the following symptoms, chances are you do:
- Pain and tenderness in your toe along one or both sides of the nail
- Redness around your toenail
- Swelling of your toe around the nail
- Infection of the tissue around your toenail
The good news is there are natural ways to treat the an ingrown toenail. Though many resort to surgery if in stages 2 or 3, that is usually not necessary if the nail is in stage 1, especially if you take care of the situation as soon as you notice it. Here’s how:
1. Soak or Wash the Foot
Soaking the foot in warm, soapy water can be very beneficial in helping keep the area clean and free of bacteria. Soak the foot in warm water three to four times per day. You can add epsom salt to the water to soften the skin of the affected area, which could make it easier to draw out the toenail from the skin.
2. Wash with Castile Soap
If soaking doesn’t work well with your schedule, you can try washing the foot and affected area twice a day with soap and water. You may want to consider Castile soap due to its natural and pure ingredients. Make sure to keep the foot clean and dry.
3. Apple Cider Vinegar Wash
Apple cider vinegar can help as a natural treatment for an ingrown toenail. You can try adding a quarter cup of vinegar to warm water for a foot soak or direct application of apple cider vinegar that has been diluted with purified water. While applying diluted apple cider vinegar to a wound may stave off infection, it may not cure an existing bacterial infection. However, it has antibacterial characteristics that can help keep the area clean as it heals.
4. Dental Floss Under the Nail
Placing cotton wisps or dental floss under the ingrown nail edge can help by shifting the nail to grow in the correct direction instead of down into the skin. Try to lift up the corner of the nail that’s digging in to the skin. Take a very small piece of cotton or gauze, and roll it between the fingers to form a small roll or wick. Place it between the nail and the skin.
For a gentler method, use the dental floss, but you may want to make sure it’s not a flavored version, as that could cause a burning sensation. The idea is to keep the nail elevated long enough to allow it to grow out and away from the skin. This is uncomfortable but effective.
Another helpful step you can take after every soaking is to try to push the roll a little farther in. Make sure to change the roll out every day. It may take one to two weeks for the nail to grow out, so be patient. In some cases, you may need to carefully cut the nail to get underneath it. Below, I have included step-by-step instructions on how to cut the nail.
5. Avoid High Heels and Tight Shoes
I know many women enjoy to look of high heels, but if you want the ingrown toenail to remedy quickly, you need to avoid these shoes. They can cause more pressure to placed in the area, and that’s likely to cause a big delay in healing as well as pain. Tight-fitting shoes of any kind can cause this problem. Sandals can be helpful, allowing the nail the freedom to to heal correctly.
6. Use Essential Oils to Help Reduce Inflammation and Pain
You can create your very own essential oil blend by combining melaleuca, (tea tree oil), cyprus, clove, lavender and rosemary with a carrier oil, such as coconut oil. Blend well, then gently massage onto the affected area. This helps you avoid synthetic medications by providing a natural remedy for the ingrown toenail, ultimately giving the area a healthier environment with which to heal. I have provided an ingrown toenail ointment recipe below using essential oils that may work well for you.
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