A Guide To How Podiatrists Treat Ingrown Toenails

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Ignoring your feet can be dangerous. However, it’s not just about having a stylish and comfortable pair of shoes – it’s the health of your feet that truly matters. One of the most common and painful foot conditions affecting millions each year is the ingrown toenail. This seemingly minor issue, if left untreated, can escalate into a major cause for concern. Understanding how podiatrists approach the treatment of ingrown toenails is an essential insight for anyone dealing with this discomfort.


An ingrown toenail occurs when the edge of the nail grows into the skin, leading to pain, redness, and, in some cases, infection. This seemingly simple condition can significantly impact one’s quality of life, particularly for athletes and those with an active lifestyle. Despite the array of home remedies, a podiatrist’s professional guidance can be the game-changer in preventing this ailment from walking all over you. This piece aims to shed light on the professional treatment for ingrown toenails, offering reassurance that pain-free steps are within reach.

Understanding Ingrown Toenails

Before exploring treatment methods, it’s crucial to understand the issue at hand. Ingrown toenails often develop due to improper nail trimming, tight footwear or injury. However, they can also arise from natural nail curvature, predisposing some individuals to this condition. The symptoms typically include pain and tenderness in the toe, redness and swelling. In severe cases, where the ingrown nail has progressed to an infection, the toe may begin to drain pus, signalling a more critical issue. Without timely intervention, ingrown toenails can lead to various problems, from chronic discomfort to mobility issues.

Causes and Symptoms of Ingrown Toenails

The development of an ingrown toenail can be traced back to several causes – poorly fitting shoes, trauma, genetics, a bulky skin fold that surrounds the nail, or simply trimming the nail incorrectly. The hallmark symptoms of an ingrown toenail are discomfort, redness, and swelling, particularly along the nail’s edge. In advanced stages, an ingrown toenail can lead to an infection, which increases pain and drainage.

Risks of Untreated Ingrown Toenails

One might be tempted to ignore the judgment of their big toe, dismissing the annoyance as a minor inconvenience. However, untreated ingrown toenails can wreak havoc on your foot health. Infection can spread to the underlying bone, leading to bone infection (osteomyelitis) or, in rare cases, blood infection, which may require more aggressive medical interventions. Furthermore, individuals with diabetes or compromised immune systems are at a heightened risk for complications and should be especially vigilant about their foot care. According to Dr Monica Lima, “ingrown toenails, when left untreated, can lead to more severe complications. Seeking professional care early is key to effective treatment”.

A Podiatrist's Role in Ingrown Toenail Treatment

A podiatrist or foot specialist, is a vital ally in the war against ingrown toenails. Their extensive knowledge and specialised training make them the go-to professionals for diagnosing and treating various foot issues. When it comes to ingrown toenails, a podiatrist’s approach is systematic, aiming to alleviate pain and heal the condition effectively.

Importance of Seeking Professional Care

Why seek professional care for an ingrown toenail when a pair of tweezers and a basin of warm water seem like a straightforward solution? The answer lies in the potential complexity of the problem. While home remedies can be a first line of defence, professional care is crucial for several reasons. Podiatrists can accurately diagnose the severity of an ingrown toenail, provide targeted treatment and, if needed, perform minor surgical procedures to rectify the issue. Additionally, they can help prevent recurrence by addressing the underlying causes of the ingrown toenail.

According to Podiatrist Dr Monica Lima, “It is best to deal with an ingrown toenail as soon as possible as this will prevent complications such as inflammation, infection, weeks or months of pain and discomfort, and potentially having to undergo more serious treatment. A podiatrist can accurately assess the underlying cause of the problem and is able to perform the correct cutting technique to deal with the offending nail edge. You might be tempted to cut the nail back yourself, however, when done improperly, this can lead to a nail spicule that is more embedded and sits further into the skin fold. If your ingrown nail has been an issue for more than 5-7 days and has not resolved following home remedies, it is best to seek professional advice.”

Podiatrist Consultation Process

The consultation process with a podiatrist typically begins with a comprehensive examination of the foot and the ingrown toenail. This may involve questions about the patient’s medical history and any previous treatments attempted. Based on their assessment, the podiatrist will recommend an appropriate treatment plan, varying from conservative methods to surgical intervention, depending on the individual’s specific case.

Treatment Options

When treating ingrown toenails, podiatrists have various tools at their disposal. These can range from conservative, non-invasive methods to surgical interventions depending on each case, all aiming to restore the affected toe’s comfort and function.

Non-Invasive Treatments

For the majority of acute cases, a podiatrist will use a nail cutting technique to remove the problematic nail spike in a way that allows the nail plate to grow back without further issues. They may also suggest at home non-invasive methods such as soaking the foot in warm water with Epsom salts to reduce inflammation and prevent infection, or placing a small piece of cotton between the ingrown edge and the surrounding skin to encourage proper nail growth. Topical or oral antibiotics may be prescribed to prevent tackle infection in some cases. Painless and quick appointments with your podiatrist can help prevent long-term discomfort.

Surgical Interventions

In cases where the ingrown toenail is persistent or has re-occured multiple times, surgical intervention may be necessary. The most common type of intervention is called a partial nail avulsion, where a small portion of the offending nail is removed under local anaesthetic. In some cases, a bulky skin fold surrounding the nail might be the underlying culprit of recurrent ingrown nails. This is often dealt surgically in conjunction with a partial nail avulsion procedure.

Preventive Foot Health Tips

Prevention is the best medicine, especially when it comes to ingrown toenails. With that in mind, simple changes to your foot care routine can make a difference in warding off this painful condition.

Guidance on Preventing Ingrown Toenails

Proper nail trimming is the first line of defence against ingrown toenails. For most people, cutting straight across the nail and avoid rounding the edges is a great way to avoid these ever becoming a problem. Additionally, wearing well-fitting shoes with adequate toe room and choosing socks that wick moisture can reduce the risk of ingrown toenails.

Importance of Proper Foot Care

Ensuring good overall foot health is vital. Keeping your feet clean and dry, especially between the toes, can prevent nail infections. Regularly inspecting your feet, mainly if you have underlying health conditions, can catch potential issues early.


In conclusion, treating ingrown toenails is not a matter to be taken lightly. Professional care from a podiatrist can provide targeted solutions beyond the scope of home treatments. It is essential to prioritise foot health and seek early intervention from a podiatrist to avoid the escalation of ingrown toenails into more severe complications. Remember, when it comes to your feet, expert advice and care can pave the way to a pain-free future.

Investing in your foot health is not just about comfort; it’s about ensuring every step you take is confident and stable. By staying informed about the potential issues and understanding the expertise of podiatrists, you empower yourself to manage ingrown toenails with the attention and care they deserve. Don’t hesitate – take that step towards professional care today and enjoy a new level of comfort and well-being in every stride.

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