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What is an ingrown toenail and how is it treated?

ingrown toenail

Photo by Karla Alexander on Unsplash

If the area around your toenail is sore, tender, red or swollen, you could have an ingrown toenail. Most often, you’ll notice trouble around your large toenail bed. But, according to the American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons, “An ingrown nail occurs when the skin on one or both sides of a nail grows over the edges of the nail, or when the nail itself grows into the skin.”

Now, that change in growth pattern hurts. That was the case for our patient Phyllis K.’s son, as she recently shared, “My son had an ingrown toenail that was infected & painful.” Fortunately, she came to our Spring, TX podiatry practice, and the problem was quickly corrected, as Phyllis said, “From the front office to Dr. Walsh completing the necessary procedure, fantastic experience! Huge thanks!”

Sadly, many people think they can cure their own ingrown toenails. But almost all home remedies for ingrown toenails fail to solve the problem. Worse, they may even cause you more pain or infection. So, for that reason, we’re reviewing some of the common at-home remedies for ingrown toenails. And we’ll tell you which you may try, and which you need to avoid at all costs.

The ‘V’ Method for Ingrown Toenails

Word on the street is that you can stop your nail from digging into your skin by cutting a v-shaped notch in the middle of your toenail.  But this rumor simply isn’t true. Because your nail grows from the bottom, right by your cuticle, things you do at the top of your nail make no difference to the direction of its growth.

Another issue with this so-called treatment method? You’re supposed to cut the v-notch in the center of your nail. But when you have ingrown toenails, the overgrowth happens at the edge of the nail bed. So, again, there’s no way this home remedy could help.

Failed Home Remedies for Ingrown Toenails

Sadly, this silly idea isn’t the only false rumor floating around about how to fix an ingrown toenail at home. People say you can put some cotton under the sharp corner of your nail. And it’s true that this can give you a quick break from ingrown toenail pain. But it won’t stop the problem, and it can’t stay there forever. Especially since the porous cotton could soak up bacteria from an infected ingrown toenail, spreading the problem to other areas of your foot.

You should also never try to cut away an ingrown nail on your own. By the time you’ve noticed a problem, your skin could be cut, and there may be signs of infection, like pus. If you attempt to cut into this area without sterile equipment, you could leave yourself open to serious infections. Or cause yourself terrible pain.

Safely Treating Ingrown Nails in Spring and Tomball TX


As soon as you notice a red or swollen toenail, you could try soaking your foot in warm water with Epsom salt. Doing so once or twice a day, for up to 15 minutes, could help relieve your pain. It may also relieve some pressure around your nail.

Of course, this is just a temporary fix. Unless you make an appointment with our podiatry office, your ingrown toenail will likely get worse. Even if you tried an-at home remedy, most ingrown toenails return without professional treatment. So, the only way to treat an ingrown toenail on your own is to keep it from developing in the first place.

3 Ways to Prevent Ingrown Toenails

The American College of Foot and Ankle Surgeons offers these 3 tips for preventing ingrown toenails.

​1. Trim your toenails straight across, never following the curve of your nail bed at the corners. You should also leave some visible white nail, so don’t trim too close to the tip of your toe.

​2. Leave plenty of wiggle room in your shoes. Toss pairs that pinch your toes, or are too short for your foot length.

​3. Skip room shoes, as well. A loose shoe fit lets your foot slide around, so your toenail may slam into the shoe edge. This kind of damage often contributes to ingrown toenail problems.


Already dealing with a painful ingrown toenail? Don’t try to fix things at home: the pain will only get worse. Instead, reach out to our office for an immediate appointment. We’ll offer you safe, sterile and effective treatment!