Will an Ingrown Toenail Heal on Its Own?

Dec 11, 2023
Will an Ingrown Toenail Heal on Its Own?
Ignoring an ingrown toenail can lead to infection and other complications. Learn what causes ingrown toenails and when to seek medical attention to prevent additional problems.

Ingrown toenails are a common condition that affects 2 out of 10 Americans. While an ingrown toenail can resolve on its own, there’s no guarantee it will heal correctly without the help of a podiatrist.

At Foot and Ankle Specialists in Memorial City, The Woodlands, and Huntsville, Texas, our expert podiatrists specialize in toenail care to address nails damaged by trauma and infection.

We also offer services onsite to treat your ingrown nail and its symptoms. Additionally, we can teach you how to maintain healthy toenails to prevent more complications.

Why you have an ingrown toenail

An ingrown toenail occurs when the edge of your nail grows into the soft skin on the side of your toe. The big toe is most often affected by this condition, but ingrown nails can occur in any of your toes.

Ingrown toenails are a side effect of improperly cut toenails, such as nails cut too short. Other risk factors for the condition include nail trauma and ill-fitting shoes. If you naturally have excess tissue around your toenail, you may also be prone to ingrown nails.

As your nail grows deeper into your skin, your toe may become painful, red, and warm to the touch.

Without treatment, an ingrown toenail can become infected and pus may ooze out of your skin. If you experience chronic ingrown toenail issues, you may be at increased risk for the infection spreading to other areas of your body.

Understanding your treatment options for ingrown toenails

In the early stages of an ingrown toenail, you may be able to treat the condition on your own. Start by soaking your foot in a tub of warm water and Epsom salts to soften your nail and surrounding skin before trimming away the nail edge.

If your nail is already embedded in your skin, you can meet with our podiatry team for medical care. They may use noninvasive treatments, such as placing a piece of cotton under your nail, so it grows away from your skin and heals naturally.

When your toenail is deep inside your skin or you have symptoms of an infection, your podiatrist may remove part or all of your toenail during a simple in-office procedure.

In cases where ingrown toenails are chronic, our team may use a special chemical to destroy your nail root and permanently remove your affected nail.

Prevention tips to guard against ingrown toenails

There are several steps you can take to minimize your risk of painful ingrown toenails. Our podiatry team can also recommend other strategies if you’re at high risk for ingrown toenail complications due to diabetes or other underlying health conditions.

Here are three tips to keep your toenails healthy:

1. Upgrade your footwear

If your shoes are too narrow and tight or too loose, it can increase your risk for ingrown toenails, hammertoe, and other foot and ankle complications.

Choose supportive footwear that fits well and has enough room for your toes.

2. Trim your nails properly

When you trim your toenails, be sure to cut them straight across the top. Use a nail file to address any pointed edges that remain. If your toenails are thick or hard to cut, soak them in warm water for about 10 minutes before trimming.

It’s also important that you keep your nail clippers and other instruments sanitized and in good working condition to prevent nail tears and infections.

3. Don’t neglect diabetic foot care

A cut or infection stemming from an ingrown toenail can become a serious complication for people with diabetes-related nerve damage (diabetic neuropathy).

If you have diabetes, don’t put off routine diabetic foot checks at our office. Our podiatrists thoroughly check your feet, toes, and nails for injuries to lower your risk for more serious health issues.

To schedule a diagnostic evaluation for an ingrown toenail, call the Foot and Ankle Specialists office near you today, or book an appointment online anytime.