There are few things more satisfying than completing a DIY project that you didn’t know how to do at first. You save some money, learn some new skills, and feel good about yourself! However, some projects really are best left to the experts. Perhaps you don’t have the necessary training or tools to do the job at a high level—or the cost of a screw-up is just way too high.
For several reasons, dealing with ingrown toenails definitely falls into the “call an expert” category. While we honor those with an intrepid DIY spirit—and we do generally approve of caring for foot and ankle conditions at home when it is safe and effective to do so—ingrown toenails are a problem you usually don’t want to mess with on your own.
The Downsides of Home Care for Ingrown Toenails
It’s not that home treatments for ingrown toenails never work. If your condition is still on the fairly mild side of the spectrum, and you are otherwise a healthy individual, you might be able to defeat this condition on your own, if things break right for you.
But should you try? That’s a different story. Here are a few reasons not to:
- Home treatments have mediocre success rates, even in mild cases.
- If home treatments don’t work (or don’t work fast enough), your pain will likely continue to increase and you could contract a dangerous infection.
- Even if home treatments do work, it will still probably be a very uncomfortable few days until you get to that point.
- Some home treatments can actually increase your risk of complications (more on that in a minute).
- Some people should not attempt even relatively “safe” home treatments if they fall into a high risk category (more on that later as well).
Many people choose to go down the home treatment path because they think it’ll be better to avoid going to the doctor. But this is usually a mistake, in our view.
Professional treatment for ingrown toenails is actually pretty simple and easy, and thanks to local anesthetic the actual removal of the ingrown edge of the toenail is not painful at all. Relief is almost immediate.
If you come in right away, we can get you in and out with minimal fuss, and you can be done with your ingrown toenail before it has a chance to worsen. Unfortunately, most people don’t actually come and see us until after their toe is already severely painful and has an infection that needs to be controlled.
You Should NEVER Attempt (or Continue) Home Care If…
Again, to reiterate: the smartest choice is usually just to make an appointment with us right away as soon as you notice an ingrown toenail, regardless of who you are. Trust us, you won’t regret it. That being said, there are a few situations that make it especially risky to delay professional care. If any of the below situations apply to you, it’s time to pick up the phone and call us immediately:
- You have diabetes. People with this condition are more susceptible to developing severe infections from their ingrown toenails. An uncontrolled infection can lead to serious repercussions, including amputation. Don’t risk it.
- You have any other high-risk condition. For the same reasons, skip straight to professional care if you have poor circulation, neuropathy, a weakened immune system, or other similar underlying conditions, with or without diabetes.
- Your toenail appears infected. Some common indications include severe pain, swelling, red streaks expanding outward from the toe, and buildup of pus under the nail.
- Your ingrown toenail isn’t going away. If you go several days with no improvement, we’d like to check out your ingrown toenail before it has a chance to get worse.
- You keep getting ingrown toenails again and again. This is usually a sign of an underlying problem that needs to be addressed.
Assessing the Safety and Effectiveness of Specific Home Treatments
When it comes to “home remedies” for ingrown toenails, not all methods are created equal. While there’s no perfect, foolproof strategy for home treatment, there are certain techniques that are much more dangerous or ill-advised than others.
If you don’t check any of the boxes in the section above, and you’re determined to try treating your ingrown toenail at home, the strategies that are the least risky and most likely to help include the following:
- Soak your foot 3-4 times per day, 15-20 minutes at a time, in lukewarm water. At the very least, this should feel good and help relieve some pain and swelling.
- Apply antibiotic ointment to help reduce the risk of an infection.
- Very loosely bandage the toe. (You’ll want a fresh bandage after every soak.)
- Avoid footwear that puts pressure on the nails. Barefoot, sandals, or shoes with roomy toeboxes are preferred.
If your ingrown toenail is mild, not infected, and you are not in a high-risk group, the above home treatment plan may work for you. It also may not. Don’t say you weren’t warned!
Now, let’s talk about some “remedies” that are expressly discouraged:
- Cutting a “V” notch in the nail. We hear this one suggested from time to time. Unfortunately, it does not work at all. There’s no benefit to doing it, and considering there’s even a slight risk you might accidentally hurt yourself cutting it, it’s a net negative.
- Using floss or cotton as a “splint” for the toenail. This is also a common suggestion, but in our opinion the risk is too high. While it can help the toenail grow above the skin, it also creates a much wider opening for germs and other infections to get underneath the nail.
- Any kind of “bathroom surgery.” Never, never, NEVER under ANY CIRCUMSTANCES attempt to cut out, pry out, or dig out an ingrown toenail on your own. The probability that you’ll do far more harm than good is very high.
We Can Help You Get Rid of Your Ingrown Nail (for Good)
We understand that going to the doctor’s office may not be your idea of a fun time—especially during a pandemic. And if you aren’t familiar with the process, you might think that ingrown toenail “surgery” will be painful or scary. But that really just isn’t the case.
First, we want to assure you that we’re taking extensive health and safety measures to protect our patients and staff from COVID-19. You can read about our procedures here, or just watch the short video below.
As for the procedure itself, it’s quite short, simple, and provides rapid relief. You can go straight back home afterward and go back to your day.
We usually don’t have to remove the whole toenail, but just a tiny piece of it. And we can also remove the corresponding part of the nail matrix too, which means the particular nail edge that became problematic shouldn’t grow back—ever. If you have a history of getting ingrown toenails again and again, this is huge!
Are You Looking for an Ingrown Toenail Specialist in Burley, ID?
If you are looking for ingrown toenail care, you should reach out to an experienced podiatrist. Ready to schedule an appointment? Contact us online our call our Burley office directly at 208.678.2727. We also have an office in Twin Falls!