What Is an Ingrown Toenail?
An ingrown toenail is a condition where the edge of the toenail grows into the skin rather than over the skin of the foot. Generally, the thumb toe or the big toe gets affected as they have a thick nail. It is a common condition but people who have poor blood circulation, diabetes, or sweat excessively are more prone to it. However, it is self-diagnosable and can be cured through various home remedies.
Causes and Symptoms of Ingrown Toenail
It can be caused due to any underlying reason:
- Trimming the toenail too short or in an improper manner.
- Injuring the toenail by stubbing your toe or by dropping something heavy.
- Repeatedly wearing tight-fitting shoes.
- Neglecting foot hygiene such as keeping the feet clean and dry.
- A hereditary or a congenital condition.
An ingrown toenail can cause redness and swelling which can get worse if not treated at an early stage. Symptoms which help in early diagnosis include:
- Redness of the skin around the nail.
- Experiencing pain in the toe while running or walking.
- Infection of tissue around the toenail.
- The skin near the nail becomes tender and swollen.
Home Remedies For Ingrown Toenail Pain
- Epsom Salt
Epsom salt helps to relieve pain related to inflammation and promotes healing. It also contains a good amount of magnesium which helps in reducing the pain and swelling as well.
To use Epsom salt effectively a foot soak should be prepared, for making this foot soak add 1-2 tablespoons of Epsom salt in a tub of warm water and soak your legs in it for 15 minutes daily. This will help to soften the skin and the nail which then can be easily removed. Remember to immediately dry your feet after the soak.
- Apple Cider Vinegar (ACV)
Apple Cider Vinegar is said to have antibacterial properties that can help to kill the bacteria and reduce the chances of further infection. It also has anti-inflammatory properties which can help to reduce the inflammation and pain.
To use it as a foot soak dilute one-fourth cup of apple cider vinegar in a tub of warm water and soak your foot in it daily for up to 20 minutes.
Another method to use it is to dip a cotton ball in a diluted apple cider vinegar solution and apply it daily on the affected area for 10 minutes.
- Essential Oils
Many essential oils are said to have antimicrobial and antibacterial properties which can be beneficial in treating the ingrown toenail pain.
- Tea Tree Oil
Tea tree oil includes strong antifungal and antiseptic properties which have been proved helpful to reduce the bacterial and the fungal infection (1).
Dilute the tea tree oil by mixing it with a carrier oil to apply to the affected area, now dip the cotton ball in the solution and apply the cotton swab on the affected area for few minutes daily. It can also be applied twice in a day if required.
- Blend of Eucalyptus and Peppermint Oil
Eucalyptus oil acts as a disinfectant, protect from infection as well as speeds the recovery of the infection which makes it a great remedy for treating the pain, and when added with peppermint oil the effectiveness of the remedy increase even more as it helps to soothe the pain and protects the toenail from infection.
To use this remedy add 5 drops of eucalyptus oil and 5 drops of peppermint oil in a carrier oil and apply it in on the infected area for few minutes twice a day.
Garlic is an ancient remedy that helps to ease out the pain and reduces inflammation due to its antiseptic properties. Its antimicrobial properties protect the ingrown toenail from further infection and harm (2).
Take 2-3 cloves of garlic and crush them to apply on the infected toenail, after applying the crushed garlic cover the area with a bandage to maximize the benefit and to minimize the pain, swelling, and infection. A paste of garlic mixed with aloe vera gel and honey can also be applied on the toenail for 30 minutes in case of sensitive skin. Aloe vera and honey are also well-known for their soothing properties and also accelerates the healing process .
- Baking Soda
Baking soda also known as sodium bicarbonate helps to remove bacteria, relieve pain, and infection (3). It also balances the ph level of the skin due to its alkaline nature which gives us healthier skin.
To make a baking soda soak add 2-3 tablespoons of baking soda in a tub of warm water and soak your feet in it for 10-15 minutes daily. Another method to use baking soda is by mixing one teaspoon of baking soda with a few drops of water and applying the mix on the affected area for a few minutes.
Lemon possesses some antifungal properties which can help to keep the fungal infection away and due to its acidic nature bacterial formation also becomes difficult. It is also helpful in alleviating pain and promotes the growth of the nail away from the skin (4).
To use it for reducing the pain squeeze lemon juice out of one lemon and apply directly on to the ingrown toenail and cover it with a bandage for 6-7 hours.
A slice of lemon can also be tied to the affected nail for a few hours in case the lemon juice is not suitable for the skin. Repeat the remedy for a few days to notice any change.
From ancient times turmeric has been used for its anti-inflammatory and antiseptic properties which help to soothe the pain and swelling. It is also beneficial in keeping the toenail clean and infection-free.
Take a teaspoon of turmeric and add a few drops of water to make a smooth paste and apply on the affected toenail for a few minutes twice a day. Mustard oil can also be used in place of water to make a fine paste.
- Ginger Oil
Ginger is known for its anti-inflammatory and other medicinal properties. It reduces pain and helps with the swelling as well. Ginger root oil when used with sesame oil twice a day can aid in inflammation and other symptoms associated with an ingrown toenail. The ginger paste can also be applied to the affected area twice a day for a few minutes to reduce the pain. Ensure to cover the area with a bandage for acquiring maximum benefits.
- Maintain proper foot hygiene. It is essential to keep the feet clean and dry to ensure healthy feet.
- Trim your toenails straight and avoid curving the edges. If you have a pedicure appointment it is necessary to tell them to avoid curving the edges.
- Avoid trimming your toenails too short. A moderate toenail length is preferable as it avoids the direct pressure from the shoes due to which the nail could have grown into the skin.
- Wear shoes that are comfortable and fit properly. Wearing tight shoes for a long period can be harmful to the feet and can be a problem for long journeys. Therefore, it is advisable to invest in comfortable shoes to avoid such problems.
- Ensure the correct method of playing the games which requires a lot of footwork such as football, running.
- People suffering from diabetes or other diseases that cause poor blood circulation should check their feet for an ingrown toenail or other foot-related problems.
Ensuring overall hygiene is vital for a healthy and problem-free life. Often when we talk about hygiene, foot hygiene is neglected however it plays an important role in determining one’s health.
Paying attention to signs that signals towards any foot disease are necessary as with time the condition may worsen. Such as in the case of an ingrown toenail, it is sensible to use home remedies when the problem is at its initial stage. However, it is advisable to consult a doctor if the pain persists or intensifies. Conditions such as producing liquid, oozing pus, warm to touch, excessively swollen indicates the need to consult a doctor or a podiatrist (foot and ankle specialist). Generally, the intake of medicines with the use of antibacterial soap, and this product may work however in some cases the doctor may partially or wholly remove the nail to stop the further growth of infection.