Can an Ingrown Toenail Heal on Its Own?

Aug 01, 2023
Can an Ingrown Toenail Heal on Its Own?
Have you ever had an ingrown toenail? If not, you may be wondering if the condition will simply disappear on its own. Unfortunately, it won’t, and it could get much worse without proper care.

Ingrown toenails are uncomfortable, painful, and potentially dangerous to your health. Another problem is that many people dismiss them as being able to heal on their own. And while catching the issue early could mean at-home treatment is enough, an ingrown toenail won’t just go away. 

Here at Southwest Foot & Ankle in Scottsdale, Arizona, we’re happy to help with an ingrown toenail that’s gotten out of hand. Our providers Petrina C. Lewis, DPM, FACFAS, and Mark T. Lewis, DPM, FACFAS, know it’s always necessary to treat this condition rather than simply hope it disappears. 

Recognizing an ingrown toenail

An ingrown toenail occurs when your nail begins to grow under your skin, creating pressure and causing pain. This often leads to infection, which causes the skin of your toe to redden, swell, and in severe cases, leak pus. 

Sometimes it can be difficult to know if you’ve developed an ingrown toenail. This can be especially true for people with diabetes, as nerve damage in your feet can mean you don’t notice pain or other common symptoms until much later. It’s the main reason people with diabetes should check their feet every day for signs of distress. 

Ingrown toenails commonly occur if you’re not cutting your toenails properly. Other causes may include wearing shoes that are too tight and pinch your toes or experiencing blunt trauma to your toe. Your big toe is most likely to be affected, although all toes can experience this problem. 

What to do about your ingrown toenail

First things first: We recommend never ignoring an ingrown toenail. The problem will only worsen if you go about your life, hoping it’ll heal itself. There are three types of ingrown toenails — mild, moderate, and severe — and the first of these can usually be treated at home.

Mild ingrown toenail treatment

When you have a mildly ingrown toenail, this means you experience some pain and discomfort but so far no infection. Soaking your feet in soapy water for 20 minutes several times a day and putting cotton under your toenail can help. You should also avoid wearing tight shoes and put a small amount of petroleum jelly under the nail. Over time, this should help. 

Moderate ingrown toenail treatment 

Infection starts to set in in the moderate stage. If you notice major swelling or severe redness, these are strong signs of infection. You may need a topical ointment at this point in your treatment, but it’s best to seek the advice of your provider, rather than buying an over-the-counter cream. 

Severe ingrown toenail treatment 

Severe infection — involving pus and a fever — is often a sign of the most serious type of ingrown toenail. Your skin might also start to grow more over your toenail, and your toe itself will be very painful. At this point, removal of your toenail may be necessary. This is because, if the condition is left to continue, you could experience foot ulcers and tissue decay. 

Getting the right care for your ingrown toenail

You won’t always need a doctor’s help for an ingrown toenail. But more severe symptoms or a comorbid condition (like diabetes) should send you to your provider. Still, no matter how mild your situation, don’t expect ingrown toenails to simply disappear without some work. 

Do you have an ingrown toenail that needs attention? Schedule an appointment at Southwest Foot & Ankle today by calling 480-900-7399 or scheduling online at your convenience.