An ingrown nails is when the nail has actually begun to grow into the nail bed. This happens most often to the toe nails and is usually found on the big toe. It may be that the nail has grown into one or both sides of the nail bed. It causes discomfort, swelling, redness, infection, and often lots of pain. Early detection and treatment make a huge difference when dealing with this problem. As soon as you notice any pain, discomfort, tenderness, or redness it is a good idea to begin treatment to avoid serious issues later on. Self treatment is only a good option if you are catching it early. If your whole toe is red or there is bleeding or extreme pain you should see a podiatrist. The goal with self treatment is to keep the nail fairly soft while preventing or eliminating infection. As the nail grows out it can then be cut properly to avoid the problem. Never dig an ingrown toe nail out; this can be painful but also dangerous.
Wash your feet at least once a day. Some statistics suggest that most people don't actually wash their feet. Many think that their feet get clean enough in the shower as the soap runs down their bodies. This isn't true and infection is the biggest danger when dealing with ingrown toe nails. Take the time to sit at the edge of the tub and wash your feet. Using an anti-bacterial soap can help. The hand soap that you normally use will do just fine. Rinse thoroughly when you are done.
Soak your feet. Soaking your feet actually softens the nails and can help with drawing any infection out. Get water as hot as you can handle it and add a cup of Epsom salts to it. Soak the foot with the problem for about 20 minutes. Dry thoroughly when you are done.
Add antibacterial ointment (available over the counter) to your toe area. This will help kill any infection that may be there as well as prevent infection in the future.
Cover the toe with a bandage. You should cover the toe with a bandage to keep the ointment in and the bacteria out. One great option is Band-Aid brand adhesive bandages for knuckles and fingertips. While your toe doesn't fall into either category these bandages provide a good shape for wrapping around the toe as well.
Never use spray on or liquid bandages for ingrown toe nails. This can cause any infection that you have to grow deeper because it won't be able to seep out. If you have used one of these products then remove it using rubbing alcohol.
Work against infection. It is a good idea to work against infection. You can do this by pouring peroixide over your toe which will kill bacteria or by swabbing it with iodine or betadine to kill bacteria and prevent further bacteria from being able to live on the surface.
Give feet extra air time. While shoes are good at protecting our feet from damage, they also make it harder for feet to get the air time they sometimes need. Try wearing open toed shoes (such as flip flops, thongs, or sandals) and going barefoot a little to give time for your feet to dry out (which helps avoid infection). Even with a bandage on, your toe will get more air this way.
Cut your toe nail. Once your toe nail has grown out to the edge of the skin carefully cut it straight across. The toe nail should not be kept short or rounded. There is also a suggestion out there that your nails should be cut in a V shape to prevent this from happening, that is untrue and can actually elevate your risk of worsening ingrown toe nails.
See a podiatrist. It isn't necessary for everyone to see a podiatrist. However, if your case is getting worse rather than better, you are having extreme pain, you are bleeding, or the area around your nail is very red, then it is a good idea to go to a podiatrist. He or she will most likely manipulate the nail to take care of the problem and give you suggestions on preventing it in the future. Severe cases may also require surgery.
Taking care of your feet is important. The moment you see signs of an ingrown toe nail then work on getting them better. If you stay on top of it you can have your toes feeling better in a few days. It is always a good idea to continue to keep your feet clean and work on preventing ingrown toe nails, but you don't need to continue with this regimen once the problem appears to be gone. You may experience the symptoms again though. When you do, start back on this and prevent it from becoming a real issue.