Health A-Z

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Treatment

In the early stages of an ingrown toenail, soak your foot in warm water containing antibacterial soap or a few tablespoons of salt. Dry your foot and apply an over-the-counter antibiotic ointment and a clean dressing. Do not cut your nail. For the next few days, wear open-toed or loose-fitting shoes. When the nail grows out, cut it straight across.

More advanced ingrown toenails require the attention of a health care professional. If the nail is not deeply ingrown, the edge of the nail can be lifted from the skin edge that it is irritating. A small piece of clean cotton can then be used to prop the nail's corner up and over the skin edge until the skin heals. Your doctor may cut open infected areas with a blade or a needle to allow the pus to drain.

For a more deeply ingrown nail, your doctor may numb your toe with local anesthetic and then remove a vertical strip of nail from the affected side of your toe. After this piece of nail is removed, the nail has a chance to regrow without an ingrown edge. If you continue to get an ingrown toenail, your doctor might also treat the cuticle with a medicine called phenol. Phenol will prevent that area of your cuticle from producing new nail, so your toenail will be narrower than it was previously.

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From Health A-Z, Harvard Health Publications. Copyright 2007 by the President and Fellows of Harvard College. All rights reserved. Written permission is required to reproduce, in any manner, in whole or in part, the material contained herein. To make a reprint request, contact Harvard Health Publications. Used with permission of StayWell.

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