From Conservative to Surgical: How We Treat Ingrown Toenails

Oct 02, 2023
Is an ingrown toenail causing you discomfort? Don't let this seemingly minor issue turn into a major problem. Here, we discuss the various treatment solutions for ingrown toenails, from conservative care to surgery. 

Ingrown toenails might not seem like a severe medical issue, but if you've experienced one, you know firsthand that they can disrupt your daily life significantly. 

If left untreated, ingrown nails can lead to serious complications such as, ongoing pain when you walk, or even infection. Understanding your options for treatment can save you a lot of discomfort and trouble down the line.

While there are various treatments that can address an ingrown toenail, choosing the one best suited for your condition is essential. Our skilled team at South Texas Foot Surgeons, PA, in San Antonio and Kerrville, Texas, offers tailored treatment plans to provide quick and effective relief. 

Here, we discuss the ins and outs of an ingrown toenail, including what you can do to remedy the problem. 

What is an ingrown toenail?

An ingrown toenail happens when your toenail grows into the surrounding skin tissue. This can cause inflammation, redness, and pain. If left untreated, it can develop into an infection, leading to an abscess or even more complex issues, especially if you have poor circulation or diabetes. 

The most common causes of ingrown toenails are improper nail cutting and ill-fitting shoes; in some cases, genetically inherited toe and toenail shape is a factor.

Conservative care for ingrown toenails

Effective conservative treatments for ingrown toenails include:

Warm soaks

Immersing your foot in warm water mixed with Epsom salt can often relieve pain and soften the skin around the nail, making it easier to lift the ingrown edge away. This should be done for at least 20 minutes to maximize effectiveness.

In addition to soaking, topical antiseptic creams can offer extra protection against bacterial infections.


Over-the-counter painkillers such as acetaminophen or ibuprofen can provide temporary relief in the initial stage of an ingrown nail. When an infection is suspected but not severe, we may prescribe a topical antibiotic to contain the problem.

Padding or splinting

In some cases, we may insert a piece of cotton or dental floss under the nail to help guide its growth away from your skin.

Specialized footwear

Snug or narrow shoes often aggravate ingrown toenails. Custom footwear can redistribute the pressure, providing added relief.

Although home remedies and over-the-counter solutions often work well in mild to moderate cases, they may not be adequate for more severe ingrown toenails. Red flags that should prompt a visit to our office include persistent pain and signs of infection like fever, red streaks, or pus.

Surgical solutions for ingrown toenails 

When all else fails, surgery is the next line of treatment. Surgical options include:

Partial nail avulsion

One of the most common surgical treatments for a severe ingrown toenail is a partial nail avulsion, which involves removing the bothersome section of the nail. Done with the aid of a local anesthetic, this technique provides immediate symptom relief.

Complete nail removal

For extreme cases, it may be necessary to remove the entire toenail. This procedure allows a new, healthy nail to grow back, but involves a longer healing time.


When ingrown toenails recur frequently, the root cause may lie in the nail matrix responsible for nail growth. Matricectomy involves removing a portion of the nail matrix to prevent the problematic section of the nail from growing back.

Comprehensive care for ingrown toenails

Ingrown toenails are more than just a nuisance; they can significantly impact your quality of life. The key to long-lasting relief is effective care and choosing the treatment option that best suits your needs. 

South Texas Foot Surgeons, PA, in San Antonio and Kerrville, Texas, is the best place to go for complete, expert care. Don't let an ingrown toenail disrupt your life — seek the specialized care you need to resolve your ingrown toenail and get back on your feet. Call or click online to schedule an appointment at your nearest office today.