Ingrown toenails—when the corner or side of your nail turns inward and grows into the skin—are a really common condition. The accompanying irritation and pain is what leads a lot of people to attempt an at-home treatment. "Many patients attempt to conduct 'bathroom surgery' on ingrown toenails, which often results in serious infections," says Miguel Cunha, DPM, podiatrist and founder of Gotham Footcare. This involves digging into your ingrown to try and uncurl it or cut it with whatever tools you may have at home (which is something a lot of the Well+Good editorial staff admits to doing). "This causes further damage to the toe and the nail."
If you have an ingrown toenail that "only causes pain at the tip of the toe," says Dr. Cunha, you can just clip it and then soak your foot in lukewarm water with Epsom salts. "But if a little clip on the tip isn't enough to address the pain, and your pain is at the side or base of the nail, you should go to a specialist sooner rather than later," he says, noting the solution likely requires more than just your nail clippers.
If you're dealing with a more severe ingrown toenail, Dr. Cunha says that a minor surgical procedure might be needed. "After injecting your toe with a local anesthetic, your doctor will cut out the ingrown portion of the toenail and chemically cauterize the underlying nail root to prevent it from growing back," he says. No need to get nervous, though. Dr. Cunha stresses that ingrown toenail procedures tend to be simple with minimal to no downtime.
Wondering how to prevent an ingrown toenail from happening in the first place? "You could be clipping your toenails incorrectly or wearing the wrong size shoe, which tends to squeeze the larger toe and can cause an ingrown," says Dr. Cunha. Sometimes people are genetically predisposed to ingrowns, too. Either way, pay attention to getting the correct size footwear and clip your toenails straight across very carefully. If all else fails, never turn to bathroom surgery in an attempt to fix that ingrown toenail.
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