An ingrown toenail is a very common affliction of the toe among adolescents and adults. It is also known as onychocryptosis or unguis incarnatus among the medical community.
Ingrown toenails happen when the sharp outer edges of the fingernail on your toe start digging into the end or the sides of your digit, instead of going outwards. This happens most commonly with the thumbnail of the big toe. Following are some scenarios that may cause ingrown toenails:
- Athletes who play the beautiful game (soccer) are susceptible to ingrown toenails. The incessant kicking of the ball combined with the infrequent use of nail clippers may hamper the normal growth of the toenail, causing it to grow inwards.
- People who choose fashion over comfort are more prone towards wearing high heels or tight-fitting shoes that compresses the toes together. If these shoes are worn for long periods, it may put undue pressure on the nails, making them grow inwards.
- Improper hygiene, leading to fungal infections may cause ingrown toenails as well! These infections tend to make the toenails thicker than normal, thus causing them to grow inwards.
- Improper grooming habits may lead to ingrown toenails as well! Many people do not know how to use nail clippers properly, causing them to round off their toenails, rather than cutting them straight across. Rounded toenails tend to grow inwards!
- There is scientific evidence of genetic factors that cause people to have ingrown toenails as well! If you have a family member who suffers from chronic ingrown toenails, you have a higher chance of suffering from it. This is because of a minor flow in the underlying bone structure that may be passed on from generation to generation.
Ingrown toenails tend to have the following symptoms, depending upon how bad the situation is:
- At the initial stages of an ingrown toenail, your toe becomes warm to the touch, without you suffering from a fever. The toe becomes red as well. It tends to hurt and is usually accompanied by a mild
- Extra skin and tissue may form around the sharp edges of the ingrown toenail, which may be accompanied with some yellow seepage.
- In extreme cases, there may be an infection. If that happens then the toe will become engorged and there will be pus. In rare circumstances, it may cause a fever as well!
How to Treat your Ingrown Toenail at Home
No one envies a person suffering from ingrown toenail. In a nutshell, it hurts, is disgusting to look at, rarely gets resolved on its own, and if you do not take care of it, your ingrown toenail may get infected. Doctors may recommend a minor surgery, if the condition gets to be really bad! However, if you apply the following steps at home, chances are that it will never be that severe!
Step 1 –Softening the area – Foot baths: The first step is to soften the skin where the toenail has grown inwards, for which taking foot baths extremely helpful. Those who are suffering from ingrown toenails should regularly soak their feel in warm water for about 20 minutes, at least two times a day. Following ingredients may be added to the foot bath to make this process more effective:
- Hydrogen Peroxide: Hydrogen peroxide is a very powerful disinfectant, hence adding half a cup to your foot bath may prevent you from suffering from secondary infections. It also makes the skin soft, making it easier for you to carefully pull out and trim the afflicted fingernail. Some less than reputable sites on the internet may recommend you to apply undiluted hydrogen peroxide on the ingrown toenail; please do not do that! Hydrogen peroxide at full strength may damage your healthy skin tissues.
- Epsom salt: Magnesium sulphate, more commonly known as Epsom salt helps you treat your ingrown toenails the same way that hydrogen peroxide does. The recommended dosage is one loaded tablespoon of Epsom salt for a tub of water.
- Povidone iodine: Povidone iodine is an anti-bacterial and anti-fungal solution that can help make the ingrown toenail become softer, while protecting the area from secondary infections. Pouring about two caps of this liquid into a tub of warm water should do the trick!
- Apple Cider Vinegar: Apple cider vinegar (ACV) is another powerful anti-microbial and anti-fungal agent that can help make your foot baths even more effective. ACV is highly recommended for advanced stages of ingrown toenails, where that affected area may have already started suffering from a fungal infection. For best results, add about three tablespoons of ACV in a tub of warm water. You can also fortify your body against secondary infections from the inside by adding one teaspoon of ACV and one tablespoon of honey (Manuka honey would be preferable) to a glass of warm water and drinking it first thing in the morning.
- Tea tree oil: Tea tree oil can enrich your footbaths that same way that apple cider vinegar does, as it has similar anti-fungal and anti-microbial properties. About 10 drops of tea tree oil in a tub of warm water is the idea recipe for a highly effective footbath. Please do not ingest tea tree oil under any circumstance!
- Potassium permanganate: This is another chemical that is highly recommended in advanced cases of ingrown toenails. The strong anti-bacterial and anti-fungal properties of potassium permanganate help treat the current symptoms, while reducing the chances of secondary infections.
- Antibacterial soap: Squirt a generous amount of antibacterial soap into a tub of warm water and soak your feet in it. The water will soften the skin, while the soap protects the affected area from secondary infections.
Step 2 – Raising the toenail – The cotton ball method: Now that you have softened the area with foot baths, you need to gradually pull the ingrown toenail out of the skin it has grown into. It is a gradual process that may hurt a bit, but is far less gruesome than it actually sounds. Following is how you do it:
- Wash your hands with a potent anti-bacterial soap. Pat them dry with a (preferably) sterile wash cloth.
- Tear off a small piece of cotton and roll it between your fingers to form a small ball. You need to use your discretion in terms of determining the size of the ball. It should not be so ludicrously big that it sticks from the side of your thumbnail; however it should be big enough so that its presence is significantly felt under your toe nails. Keep reading; once you understand the purpose of this ball, it will help you discern the ideal size.
- Now grab a pair of tweezers and gently start pulling the ingrown toenail out of the skin it has grown into. This process is going to hurt a bit; hence it is recommended that you mentally prepare yourself for the same. Keep tugging gently, until the pain becomes unbearable. Slip the cotton ball underneath the raised toenail, so that it remains raised. Remember that this cotton ball needs to be replaced after the next foot bath!
- There may be a flow of pus, especially if the condition is a bit severe. Wipe it off with another piece of cotton and apply any over the counter anti-bacterial cream such as Neosporin. Feel free to pop a couple of over the counter pain medicine like Ibuprofen, if the area still hurts after a few minutes.
Repeating the two steps mentioned above for about three to four times should allow you to completely remove the ingrown toenail from the skin. This brings us to the all-important third step!
Step 3 – Cut your ingrown toenail: You should now use your tweezers to hold it at an elevated position and use a pair of clippers to trim offending fingernail right away! This will prevent your ingrown toenail from entering back into the skin and voila – you are healed!
Other Home Remedies for Ingrown Toenail
Although a foot bath is the most effective method of softening the skin, it is time-consuming, which is a luxury most of us can ill-afford. If foot baths are not an option for you, you may try any of the following treatments:
Lemon: Take a thin slice of lemon and place it on the affected area. Wrap the fingernail tightly with some gauze and hold it together with the help of medical tapes and leave it overnight. The natural lemon juice should soften the skin, while its anti-bacterial properties can protect the area from secondary infections.
Baby oil: This is useful for softening the skin, but is only effective during the preliminary stages of the affliction, as it does not have any proven anti-bacterial properties. Just pour a few drops of baby oil on the ingrown toenail and cover the area with medical tapes and leave it overnight.
Vicks VapoRub: Besides providing some welcome relief from the symptoms of common cold, Vicks VapoRub can help treat your ingrown toenails as well because:
- It has anti-microbial properties that can help protect the area from secondary infections.
- The menthol acts as a minor topical sedative, which helps relieve the pain.
Apply a liberal quantity of this ointment on the affected area and protect it overnight by using gauze and medical tapes.
Antibacterial cream: Visit your local drugstore and purchase any antibacterial cream; the one that is recommended the most is Neosporin. Apply generous quantities of it on the affected area, keep it covered overnight using Band Aids or gauze and medical tapes to protect the area.
Tips to Follow while Suffering from Ingrown Nails
While the treatments mentioned above are working its magic, the following tips will help you speed up the healing process:
- Start dealing with ingrown nails the moment you notice the symptoms. Ignoring it will not make it go away!
- Do not be averse to taking an over the counter pain reliever to ease the pain! You need to keep your sanity, so that you can ably administer the treatment.
- In between treatments, try wearing white socks made with a light material, such as cotton. This will help you protect the area, while allowing for air to move around the affected area. Kindly refrain from wearing colored socks because the sweat from your feet may react with the dye on these socks, which may in turn make the inflammation worse!
- Choose comfort over fashion. You are already suffering from a world of pain, there is no point making it worse!
- Do not paint your toenails. The chemicals from nail paint may further irritate the inflammation!
- Use your clippers on any of the dry skin that may be hanging from the side of the ingrown toenail. This will help you aerate the infected area.
- If there is any light pus formation, feel free to squeeze it out and wipe the area with a tissue. However if the pus is tan, green or yellow in color, it may be a sign of a severe infection and you should consult your doctor right away!
Tips to help Avoid Ingrown Nails in the Future
Certain simple precautions need to be taken to prevent ingrown nails from occurring in the future:
- Wear comfortable footwear: Avoid putting undue pressure on your toenails, especially your thumbnails, as they are more prone towards growing inwards. If you shop around, you are bound to find lots of different options that will help you achieve a professional or stylish look without you having to compromise on your health!
- Maintain proper hygiene: One needs to be hygienic when it comes to dealing with their feet as well. It is not hard to do, as long as you stay true to the following steps:
- Wear a fresh, clean pair of socks every day!
- Cut your toenail in regular intervals. When you do so, you need to keep the clippers perpendicular to your toenails, so that you cut your nails straight-across.
- Clean your feet regularly. You can do so by exfoliating your feet a few times every week, with the help of a pumice stone. Taking any of the aforementioned foot baths after a hard day of work is highly recommended, even when you are not suffering from ingrown toenails!
- Take a pedicure at least once a month and this is suggested for the gents as well! Dropping the macho posturing can help you have a relaxing experience and can prevent the ingrown toenails from ever coming back. Yes, it is ok to skip the nail paint!
- Use adequate protection: This tip is for the athletes among us. Just because you are a budding soccer star, does not mean that you need to suffer from ingrown toenails. Sports science has made great strides in terms of creating protective gear that will not hamper your on-field performance. Consult your coach or your physiotherapist for useful suggestions!
Did you suffer from ingrown toenails? Did our suggestions help you out? Do you have any other suggestions for people who may be suffering from this condition? Feel free to get in touch with us and share your experiences!