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Can an Ingrown Toenail Heal on Its Own?

Can an Ingrown Toenail Heal on Its Own?

Ingrown nails, where the skin grows over the nail or the nail grows into the skin around it, mostly affect the toes, especially the big toe, because of the pressure of the body’s weight.

Regardless of the cause, you end up with a painful, hard, red swelling at the nail’s corner, which can easily develop an infection.

At Chicagoland Foot and Ankle, our team of experienced podiatrists understands how painful ingrown toenails can be and why you want them treated. We get asked a lot if the ingrown nail will heal on its own. Here’s why we recommend having a professional treat the nail.

What causes ingrown toenails?

Toenails can become ingrown for many reasons, such as when you:

Your genetics may also predispose you to the condition, but that doesn’t mean you can’t prevent it from occurring.

Signs of an ingrown toenail infection

If you just have an ingrown toenail, you may experience redness and swelling, but if you have an infection, you’ll notice:

While these symptoms generally indicate an infected nail, other causes are possible. One example is a bone spur beneath the nail. It can trigger the same symptoms but it requires different treatment. 

For an accurate diagnosis and proper treatment, contact one of our four Chicagoland offices.

Can an ingrown toenail heal on its own?

The short answer is: No, it can’t. There are some home remedies you can try for a couple of days of symptom relief, but ultimately, you need to see a doctor, if for no other reason than at-home treatment leads to a high incidence of recurrence.

If you don’t see any discharge from the nail, try soaking your toe in warm water mixed with Epsom salts for 15-20 minutes 3-4 times a day. Take over-the-counter pain relievers and anti-inflammatories for the pain and to reduce swelling.

Wear socks and shoes made of natural fibers that allow your feet to breathe; if the socks become damp, change them. Your shoes should have a roomy toe box and arch and heel support. Avoid high heels, which compress your feet and alter your body mechanics.

If you don’t see an improvement or if you start to see signs of an infection (pus or bloody discharge), make an appointment with us at Chicagoland Foot and Ankle.

If you don’t have an infection, we can lift the nail with a splint to allow the toe to heal. 

If you do have an infection, we may first prescribe oral antibiotics to clear it up. Then we may need to partially or completely remove the nail, along with some of the underlying nail bed, surrounding tissues, and even a part of the growth center in some cases.

If you’re diabetic, be particularly mindful of an infected toe, as it can be serious. Diabetes leads to decreased blood flow to the extremities, as well as the risk of peripheral neuropathy (lack of nerve sensitivity in the feet). Even a small cut or ingrown nail can quickly become infected.

At-home symptom relief is always a good place to start, but an ingrown toenail needs professional treatment.

Contact us today to schedule an evaluation. We have offices in the Mount Greenwood and Portage Park areas of Chicago, as well as Orland Park and New Lenox, Illinois.

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