Will An Ingrown Toenail Eventually Grow Out?

Jan 30, 2024

podiatrist treating an ingrown toenail

An ingrown toenail, known medically as Onychocryptosis, is a common condition where the edge of the toenail grows into the surrounding skin.

This often results in discomfort, swelling, and sometimes infection. It's a condition that can cause a great deal of concern, primarily due to the pain it can cause and its disruptive impact on daily activities.

But, do you always need to worry about an ingrown toenail, will it heal on it's own or should you go see a podiatrist?

What Causes an Ingrown Toenail

There are numerous reasons why one may develop an ingrown toenail.

Quite often, it can be due to simple factors such as improper nail care - mainly trimming them too short or rounding the edges, or wearing shoes that are too tight, placing excessive pressure on the toes.

Sometimes, more systemic issues like obesity, poor posture, or even genetic predisposition can contribute to the development of ingrown toenails.

Health conditions can also play a role. For instance, individuals with diabetes or other conditions that affect circulation are more prone to developing foot problems, including ingrown toenails. It's therefore important to be mindful of these contributing factors in managing and preventing this condition.

What Does An Ingrown Toenail Look Like?

ingrown toenail

The easiest way to spot an ingrown toenail is a noticeable lump on the side of the big toe near the nail.

The lump may appear red, swollen, or tender to the touch due to irritation caused by pressure from improper nail growth. In some cases, there might be pus or drainage present around the affected area if an infection has developed. It's important to note that while this visual symptom is often associated with an ingrown toenail, its presence alone may not confirm its diagnosis.

If you're not sure, it's best to make an appointment with a podiatrist that specialises in ingrown toenail treatment.

Will My Ingrown Toenail Heal On Its Own?

Good news - in many cases, an ingrown toenail can indeed heal on its own! As long as the condition is not severe and there isn't any sign of infection (like pus or significant swelling), it's often possible for the problem to resolve without medical intervention.

If your nail is infected, it won't heal on its own. Neglecting proper treatment for an ingrown toenail can lead to painful complications and potentially worsen the condition. Seeking professional assistance from a podiatrist is crucial in effectively addressing the infection and preventing further discomfort.

Professional treatment typically involves several steps tailored to your specific situation. The podiatrist will carefully evaluate your condition by examining your toe and assessing any underlying causes contributing to recurrent ingrown nails. They might recommend oral antibiotics or topical medications to combat infection and reduce inflammation.

Occasionally, a minor surgical procedure called partial nail avulsion might be necessary. This procedure involves removing part of the affected toenail under local anaesthesia to alleviate pain permanently while allowing proper regrowth without impeding nearby tissues.

At Home  Solutions For Ingrown Toenails

Soaking your foot in warm water mixed with Epsom salt several times a day can help reduce inflammation and ease discomfort.

Over-the-counter solutions and ointments may also aid in healing. However, it's essential to understand that while these methods can provide temporary relief, they don't address the root cause of an ingrown toenail.

Also, please remember that attempting self-treatment for an infected ingrown toenail increases the risks of exacerbation and could make your situation worse.

How Long Does An Ingrown Toenail Take To Heal?

If your podiatrist has performed a partial nail avulsion, then you can expect your ingrown toenail to heal completely in about 2-8 weeks.

Factors That Influence Healing

Several factors can aid or hinder the healing process of an ingrown toenail. The severity of the condition plays a significant role - a minor ingrown toenail with minimal discomfort may resolve quicker than a severe case.

Proper hygiene is crucial in preventing infection and promoting healing. Keeping the foot clean and dry can help significantly, as can wearing open-toed shoes or those with a wide-toe box to avoid pressure on the affected toe.

Your overall health also impacts how quickly an ingrown toenail will heal. Individuals with good general health and strong immune systems are likely to recover faster, while those with underlying health conditions may find that healing takes longer.

When Should You Seek Medical Attention?

While many cases of ingrown toenails can resolve on their own with time and proper care, there are situations where professional medical help is necessary.

When an ingrown toenail becomes infected, you may experience intensified pain along with symptoms such as pus drainage or increased warmth around the affected area. These signs indicate that bacteria have entered the wound site and require immediate attention from a podiatrist.

If the pain is severe, if there are signs of infection like redness, swelling, and pus, or if you have an underlying condition like diabetes which affects your foot health, medical attention should be sought immediately.

Untreated severe ingrown toenails can lead to serious complications, including a deep tissue infection that could spread to the underlying bone and even require amputation in the worst-case scenarios.

How to Prevent Ingrown Toenails

Prevention is always better than cure! The best way to deal with ingrown toenails is to avoid getting them in the first place. This involves proper foot care such as regularly trimming your nails straight across (not too short), avoiding tight shoes, and maintaining good foot hygiene.

If you're prone to ingrown toenails due to genetic factors or underlying health conditions, regular check-ups with a podiatrist can also help prevent the condition from developing or worsening.

Final Words

While an ingrown toenail can cause significant discomfort and concern, it's reassuring to know that many cases can resolve on their own with proper care and attention. However, it's crucial to monitor your symptoms closely and seek professional help if the condition worsens or shows signs of infection. Remember, looking after your foot health not only helps prevent issues like ingrown toenails but also contributes to your overall well-being.

If you think you might need to see a podiatrist, then book in to see a podiatrist at Dan Everson Podiatry today in one of our Sunshine Coast clinics and see if we can help. Prevention is better than the cure.