An ingrown toenail occurs when the nail edge curves downward and digs into the surrounding skin. It often affects the big toe, causing inflammation in the tissues surrounding the affected nail. When left untreated, this painful condition of the toes can develop into a serious infection. Ingrown toenails are common in teens and young adults. People within this age range experience excessive sweating, which softens the nails and the adjoining skin. Physical activity and increased perspiration are common causes of ingrown toenails. Should you leave your ingrown toenail to grow out? Or should you seek medical treatment? And can you treat an ingrown toenail at home? Read on to find out. What Causes an Ingrown Toenail? Hyperhidrosis or excessive sweating can soften the nail and the nail fold, which is the skin at the side of the toenail. Consequently, the softened nail can split in two, allowing one part of the nail to dig into the soft skin. Here are other causes of an ingrown toenail: Trimming toenails incorrectly Improper nail trimming is one of the most common causes of ingrown toenails. The proper way is to trim your toenails straight across the nail bed. Cutting the nails too short can damage the underlying nail bed. Wearing ill-fitting shoes Ill-fitting footwear can cause ingrown toenails and other foot problems. Wearing shoes that are too tight, too narrow, or too short forces the big toes to push into the second toe, placing pressure on the nail wall. Foot Trauma Foot trauma, like dropping something on the foot or frequent stubbing of the toes, can cause the nail edge to pierce the skin. Taking part in sports, like repeatedly kicking a ball, can injure the toes and increase the risk of ingrown toenails. Nail problems Infection from a toenail fungus or losing a nail due to trauma also causes ingrown toenails. Genetic predisposition The tendency to develop ingrown toenails can be passed from parents on to their children. Will an Ingrown Toenail Heal Itself Eventually? You can treat an ingrown toenail with home remedies as long as there are no signs of infection such as swelling, hot to the touch, redness, oozing and foul odour. Or you can just let the nail heal itself. On the other hand, your infected ingrown toenail won’t heal on its own. You will need professional medical care from a foot doctor or podiatrist to treat the infection and prevent painful complications. How Long Does it Take for an Ingrown Toenail to Grow Out? Minor ingrown toenails may heal in 2 to 3 days after treatment with home remedies. There are several ways you can do at home to treat an ingrown nail. However, if you suspect that there’s already an infection, or if you have diabetes or circulation problems -- you must skip the home remedies and see a foot specialist immediately. With the right treatment, ingrown toenails with severe infection can take 2 to 4 months to heal. Home Care: Can I Remove an Ingrown Toenail Myself? It can be painful when the edge of your toenail grows into the adjoining skin. But if there are no signs of serious infection and you don’t have diabetes or other complicating medical conditions, you can try these Ingrown Toenail Remedies to remove an ingrown nail at home: \tSoak the foot in warm water 2 to 3 times a day for 20 minutes. Whilst there’s no scientific evidence that Epsom salts offer pain relief, you can add some in the water if you wish. \tGive your foot and toe a gentle massage to improve blood flow in these areas. Doing so may help with the pain and speed up the healing process. \tDry the foot after soaking. Make sure to apply any antibiotic ointment to your toe and bandage it to reduce the chances of infection. \tWear close-toed shoes whenever possible. These shoes can protect your toes from any injuries that may arise. Make sure the front of the shoes (toe box) provides enough room for your toes to move freely. \tWhilst applying a numbing cream or spray may not address the problem, it may help alleviate pain from a wound. How to Prevent Ingrown Toenails You can treat ingrown toenails before infection takes hold. Here are the best practices that may prevent ingrown nails from developing into an infection: \tPractice proper trimming of the nails. Always cut your toenails in a straight line. Also, avoid cutting them too short. \tWear comfortable shoes and socks that fit well. Women should avoid wearing high heels. \tNever pick at the toenail or tear it off. \tKeep your feet clean. When Should You Get Medical Treatment? Medical attention may be required when there’s already an infection or when your ingrown nail isn’t better after 3 to 5 days of home remedies. If you notice or experience the following signs and symptoms, you should see a doctor, foot specialist or podiatrist. Common symptoms of an ingrown toenail include warmth, significant swelling, worsening pain and drainage, like blood or pus. Your doctor may prescribe antibiotics to treat your infected toenail. If your ingrown toenails occur more often, a minor surgical procedure may be necessary. Your doctor may perform partial nail avulsion, a common procedure to treat an infected ingrown toenail. Your foot care specialist may also apply chemicals to the nail matrix, which is the area under the cuticle where nails start to grow. This treatment will prevent new nails from growing in the infected toe. Generally, the foot specialist will administer a local anesthetic to your toe before the treatment. Related post: How Does a Podiatrist Remove an Ingrown Toenail? Ingrown Toenails? Get Help From Your Foot Specialist Immediately It can be tempting to remove ingrown toenails at home, especially when they are causing foot pain, swelling, or difficulty walking. Home remedies may work well to reduce swelling and pain. But when a toenail has an infection or does not respond to home remedies, you must visit your foot doctor or podiatrist right away. To know more about our ingrown toenail treatments, request an appointment today! FAQs About Ingrown Toenails 1. Is it OK to leave an ingrown toenail? If ingrown toenails are left untreated, they can develop into a serious infection. If you don’t treat an infected toe, the infection may spread to the bone. You will most likely develop gangrene, a condition where the tissues rot and die due to bacterial infection or lack of blood flow. 2. Will an ingrown toenail fix itself eventually? Minor ingrown toenails heal on their own. However, medical attention is necessary if an ingrown nail infection has become severe. 3. Will an ingrown toenail eventually grow through the skin? Ingrown toenails typically develop on the big toe. An ingrown toenail occurs when the nail edge curves downward and digs into the skin of your toes. You may experience toe pain, swelling, soreness, redness and warmth. Bacteria may enter and cause an infection if the toenails dig into the skin. In time, the skin will grow over the ingrown nails.