Ingrown toenails can cause severe pain, inflammation, and infection. They can be caused by improperly trimming the toenails, tight shoes, and injuries to the toe. In severe cases, your podiatrist may need to perform a surgical procedure to remove the tissue in which the toenail is embedded. While you should make an appointment with your podiatrist to evaluate your ingrown toenail, consider the following conservative non-surgical treatments while you are waiting for your doctor's appointment.
Warm Water Foot Soaks
Soaking your foot in warm water a few times a day helps soften the skin of your toe so that the toenail can be easily removed. Be sure to dry your foot thoroughly after your foot soaks because failure to do so may result in a fungal infection such as athlete's foot.
Your podiatrist may also recommend that you add a small amount of table salt to the warm water. Salt has antibacterial and anti-inflammatory properties, which may help reduce your risk for a soft tissue infection, relieve your pain, and reduce inflammation. Instead of regular table salt, you can also use Epsom salt, which is also known as magnesium sulfate. You can purchase Epsom salts at any pharmacy without a prescription.
OTC Antibiotic Ointment
Using an over-the-counter, or OTC, antibiotic ointment can help both reduce your risk for developing an infection from your ingrown toenail and treat an existing infection. After soaking your foot in warm water and salt, dry it thoroughly, and apply a small amount of antibiotic ointment over the affected area. Next, cover your toe with a bandage, making sure that it isn't too tight. You can apply the antibiotic ointment up to a few times a day; however, you should follow the manufacturer's packing instructions for the product you are using.
If you notice that your ingrown toenail symptoms are worsening after applying the antibiotic, stop using it and call your foot doctor. Increased redness, swelling, pain, or a rash may mean that you are allergic to the ointment. Also, if you develop systemic symptoms of an infection such as fever, chills, and body aches, see your doctor right away.
If you have an ingrown toenail, call your foot doctor, who may either recommend the above treatment options or advise you to visit the office. Once your doctor has examined your toe, he or she will develop a treatment plan, which may include either oral antibiotics, surgical intervention, or a combination of both.