Ingrown Toenail treatment

Ingrown toenails are very common conditions that affect particularly the big toe. Potential causes for this condition can be a combination of the person’s nail shape, nail trimming technique, and type of footwear worn.


When using a nail clipper if the nail is cut too short at the corners it may encourage the toenail to grow into the skin. An ingrown toe nail is one that curves on the sides and digs into the skin. This causes pain and swelling at the skin surrounding the nail. A common complication is an infected ingrown toenail, which is very sore and appears red with some pus discharge. Some footwear may predispose to developing infected ingrown toenails, as closed shoes and non-breathable materials will create a moist and contained environment which is perfect for germs to thrive. 


These infections are caused by bacteria and are very different from fungus that can also cause nail infections, but instead of producing a red, painful and leaky neighbouring skin, fungal nail infections create a thick, discouloured and flaky nail.


Early treatment as soon as ingrown toenails are recognised is the best approach, ideally before an infection can develop. At home treatment for ingrown toenails consists of:

  • Soaking the nail in (salty) water 2-3 times a day
  • After soaking and baths keep the nail very dry and wear clean socks
  • Wear shoes with wide toe boxes and enough space for the toes. Open shoes or sandals are best
  • Trim your nails but avoid cutting them too short at the corners

If this is not sufficient to deal with symptoms or recurrent infections occur, surgical treatment can be considered. A lateral portion of the nail can be removed surgically including the nail bed of that corner, so that the growth centre is devitalised. This effectively avoids the lateral edge of the nail growing into the skin again. The rest of the nail will continue to grow as usual, only thinner and without causing problems. Removal of the entire toenail is generally avoided as there is risk that the new nail growing underneath does so in a deformed manner. The operation can be done under local anaesthesia and the recovery is quick with return to usual activities in about 2 weeks.