There are many different treatment options available for an ingrown toenail, including home treatment; conservative treatment; and surgical intervention.
You can use the following preventative techniques at home:
- Put the affected foot in warm water for 15 to 20 minutes per day, to soften the nail. Otherwise, keep the foot dry at all other times.
- Gently push the skin away from the toenail until it fully detaches, then apply antibiotic cream on top to prevent inflammation. Make sure the toe is protected, or covered with a bandage, after the antibiotic cream is applied and keep the area dry.
- Carefully pick shoes, especially when planning a long walk. Loose and breathable shoes are recommended during the healing process.
- Take painkillers or anti-inflammatory medication for pain management. If you prefer to not take medication, apply the antibiotic gel.
In severe cases, surgical intervention may be required. This could be partial, or complete nail avulsion (removing part of, or the whole of the toenail that is digging into the skin). For children who are subject to repeated infections, doctors may suggest permanently removing the affected toenail.
During complete nail avulsion, your doctor will inject anaesthetic to numb the toe first, then remove part of, or the entire toenail. During partial nail avulsion, the edges of the toenail will be trimmed until it is completely straight. An external padding is placed under the remaining nail, preventing this from growing into the affected side of the toe in the future.
After surgery, the foot will be protected by a bandage. During the first few days, keep it elevated and put an ice pad on top to decrease the swelling from the surrounding area. Special-made footwear will be used to prevent weight bearing for a few days. Avoid movement as much as possible in the immediate days following the surgery, as your toe will take time to heal. The doctor may remove the bandage after 3 days and prescribe painkillers and antibiotics to prevent infection. During the healing process, you can keep your toes clean and dry by wearing open-toe shoes or sandals.
If you remove part of the toenail, it can take a few months to grow it back. If you decide to completely remove the affected toenail, it can take up to a year to grow back.