Ingrown Toenails – A Self Care Guide

Ingrown toenails are another common and painful condition that our Podiatrists at Prahran Foot Clinic see daily. Most commonly affecting the big toenail this occurs when the edge of the nail grows into the surrounding skin causing redness, swelling, pain and potentially infection if left untreated.


  • Poor nail cutting technique – Trimming the side of the toenail and leaving a small spike will cause the nail to grow into the surrounding skin.
  • Ill-fitting footwear – Tightly fitted shoes such as high heels or pointy toed shoes will put undue pressure on the nail potentially causing it to become ingrown.
  • Trauma or injury – Aside from tearing the existing nail, trauma will also potentially disrupt growth in the nail plate (onychauxis) causing it to thicken or become deformed.
  • Medications – Certain medications can cause the nail plate to grow abnormally, namely in an involute, pincer-like fashion. Medications that can cause this includes the oral retinoids such as isotretinoin (Roaccutane) prescribed for skin disorders as well as some chemotherapy drugs used in the treatment of cancers.
  • Genetics – Some people are just naturally prone to getting ingrown nails, whether this is because of the natural shape of their toenails or the shape of their feet and toes.

Prevention is Better Than Cure

  • Proper Nail Care – Trim your nails straight across and avoid cutting them too short. File the edges to prevent sharp spikes.
  • Wear Properly Fitted Footwear – Wear shoes that provide enough room for your toes and avoid excessively tight or pointy shoes.
  • Practice Good Hygiene – Keep your feet clean and dry, this will help prevent infection should an ingrown nail occur.

Managing an Ingrown Toenail at Home

If despite your best efforts you end up with an ingrown toenail here are a few things to try at home which may help.

  • Soak Your Feet – Soak your feet in warm, salt water for 10-15 minutes. Not only will the salt water help to clean the toe and prevent infection it also has an anti-inflammatory effect. The warmth will soften the nail plate and make it easier to manipulate.
  • Lift the Nail – Gently lift the edge of the ingrown nail using a clean toothpick or a piece of dental floss. This helps the nail grow above the skin, reducing irritation.
  • Use an Antiseptic – Assuming you are not allergic to it then apply an antiseptic solution such as Betadine (povidone-iodine) liquid, allowing it to get into the sulcus between the skin on the side of the toe and the nail. Not only will this help to prevent infection, iodine also has anti-inflammatory properties.
  • Cover – Cover the side of the nail with a dressing such as a Band-Aid to keep it clean and free of sock lint.
  • Wear – wide-fitting shoes or if appropriate flip-flops or sandals to reduced pressure.

When to Seek Professional Help

Whilst minor cases can often be managed at home there are times when we recommend you seek professional assistance from one of our Podiatrists. For instance:

  • If you have severe pain, swelling or a suspected infection
  • Chronic, recurrent ingrown toenails
  • If you have diabetes, poor circulation or a weakened immune system
  • If you’ve been treating your ingrown nail at home and it isn’t getting better within a few days

To make an appointment to see one of our experienced Podiatrists either call the clinic on (03) 9529 6608 or Book Online.

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