The severity of an ingrown toenail can vary, but in some cases, it can be treated at home without the assistance of a podiatrist. The most important thing to remember is that an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.
Since an ingrown toenail can result from wearing tight fitting shoes, make sure that your footwear is comfortable and that there is adequate room to wiggle your toes. When trimming your toenails, be sure to cut the nail straight across rather than at an angle, especially if you have had toenail problems in the past. A common myth associated with preventing an ingrown toenail is to cut a v-shape in the center of the nail. This technique is not only ineffective, but actually increases the chance of the toenail growing into the skin.
If you already have an ingrown toenail, the best way to remedy the problem is to soak your foot in warm salted water at least twice a day. This will soften the toenail and reduce swelling. After soaking the nail, swab it with an antiseptic, such iodine, to prevent infection. Next, take a piece of clean cotton and gently place it under the toenail so that it is raised. Apply an antibacterial ointment to the area to prevent infection. Repeat these steps until the toenail has grown out and away from the skin.
It is important to keep your feet clean and to replace the cotton at least daily to reduce your chances of infection. If you already suspect infection or if your toenail is too painful to follow the above procedures, seek medical advice. If left untreated, a toenail infection can spread to the bones of the feet, resulting in serious complications. Fever and chills often accompany redness, pain, and swelling in the event of a serious infection.
Although it is possible to surgically remove an ingrown toenail at home, it is not advisable. Cutting and removing the toenail yourself may temporarily remedy the problem, but it often causes repeated problems with the toenail.