Ingrown toenails can cause pain and swelling. Home remedies and medical treatments can help with symptoms.

“People who wear shoes that are too tight or don’t allow their feet to breathe are more likely to have ingrown toenails.”

Around 20 percent of people experience an ingrown toenail at some point in their lives. Symptoms of an ingrown toenail can include pain and swelling of the toe. Sometimes, the nail may become infected.

Home remedies and surgery are some of the treatments for ingrown toenails. If you have an ingrown toenail, you can treat it at home with over-the-counter medication or home remedies. If the nail is causing pain, you may need to see a doctor.

An ingrown toenail happens when the corner or edge of your toenail curves and grows into the surrounding skin. This may cause pain, redness, and swelling. The condition is very common in both men and women. Your big toe is most likely to be affected.

Common causes of ingrown toenails are:

It is important to treat ingrown toenails as soon as possible. Mild cases may need some home remedies. There are cases that may need surgical intervention.

The following treatments can help heal an ingrown toenail.

Soaking the affected foot may help reduce swelling and ease the pain. You can soak your foot in warm, soapy water for up to 20 minutes at a time. Castile soap is a good option. Adding Epsom salts to the water may bring additional relief.

Apple cider vinegar is a folk remedy for ingrown toenails. It is believed to have antiseptic, anti- inflammatory, and pain-relieving abilities.

Prepare a basin of warm water and a cup of apple cider vinegar. For up to 20 minutes daily, soak the foot. After soaking, dry your foot.

Some experts recommend tucking small bits of cotton or waxed dental floss under the edge of an ingrown toenail to encourage proper nail growth. Not every medical group agrees.

According to the American College of Foot and Ankle Surgeons, placing cotton under your nail may increase pain and allow harmful bacteria to thrive. Soaking the cotton or floss in alcohol before application may help reduce this risk.

Using over-the-counter antiseptic ointment or cream can promote healing and help reduce the risk of infection. Apply the ointment to the affected toenail following the manufacturer’s instructions, usually up to three times daily.

These can include:

  • neomycin is a penicillin-like drug.
  • bacitracin/polymyxin B is a drug used in the treatment of Polysporin.
  • Bactroban is a drug.

Be sure to bandage the toenail after application.

The shoes and socks you wear can affect your toes. Ingrown toenails are caused by improper footwear. To help prevent an ingrown toenail from developing, wear shoes and socks that fit but still leave plenty of space in the toe bed. During the healing process, wear sandals as much as possible to limit pressure on your toenails.

Acetaminophen (Tylenol) may help relieve ingrown toenail pain. Side effects are unusual unless you take more than the daily recommended amount of 2 325 milligram (mg) tablets every 4 to 6 hours. Do not exceed 10 tablets in 24 hours and don’t take it with alcohol.

If swelling is present, ibuprofen (Advil) may be a better option because it relieves both pain and swelling. Some common side effects of ibuprofen include abdominal pain, upset stomach, and diarrhea.

All over-the-counter pain relief should be taken by a doctor or manufacturer.

“A toe protection is needed for ingrown toenails. Toe protectors can be used as rings or a covering for the entire toe. Dr. Scholl’s has a medicated gel that can be used to help with trimming toenails. The treatment should be used until the ingrown toenail is gone.”

Toe braces are thin composite devices that hold the toe in place and shield the skin from as a new nail grows back. They help treat and prevent ingrown toenails. You can find toe braces online and in some pharmacies.

Your doctor may prescribe oral antibiotics for a severe ingrown toenail infection that doesn’t respond to other remedies and treatments. Oral antibiotics help reduce pain and swelling while also fighting infection.

Some signs of an illness.

Ampicillin, amoxil, Moxatag, and vancomycin are antibiotics used to treat ingrown toenails.

If an ingrown toenail doesn’t improve with home remedies, partial or full removal of the nail may be necessary. Using a local anesthetic, a doctor may remove part of the nail’s border, the underlying nail bed, or part of the middle growth plate.

In severe, recurring cases, the doctor may recommend removing the entire ingrown nail. This is the last resort and a potentially painful solution that may increase your risk of infection. It also increases the risk of a misshapen toenail as it grows back.

Minor foot problems like ingrown toenails may cause serious complications in some people. See the doctor if you have an ingrown toenail and you have diabetes or another condition that causes poor circulation, or you have a compromised immune system.

“You should see a doctor if that’s something you’re interested in.”

  • Swelling and pain are very serious.
  • “Home remedies don’t improve the condition”
  • You have an allergic reaction to something.
  • You have questions about how to care for an ingrown toenail.

Most ingrown toenails aren’t serious. They should improve within a week or so without causing permanent damage with the proper home care. Left untreated, ingrown toenails may cause severe pain and infection that could spread to deeper layers of skin.

“If you don’t take steps to prevent ingrown toenails, they can recur.”

Prevention tips

  • Move around to avoid injury to the toenails.
  • The tip of your toe is the only place to trim your toenails.
  • If your job increases your risk of injury, wear protective foot gear.

It is easy to treat ingrown toenails at home. Trimming your nails, wearing proper-fitting shoes, and soaking your feet can help prevent ingrown toenails.

Ingrown toenails heal without causing permanent damage. Sometimes they can lead to serious problems. If you have an underlying condition that puts you at risk for diabetes, you should see your doctor.