An ingrown toenail is a common problem where the nail grows into the toe. It can be painful, but there are things you can do to ease the pain.
Check if you have an ingrown toenail
You usually get an ingrown toenail on your big toe. But you can get them on any toe.
Your toe can also get infected.
Signs of an infected toe include:
- pus coming out of it
- you feel hot or shivery
How to treat an ingrown toenail at home
If you go to a GP, they'll usually suggest you try these things first.
soak your foot in warm water 3 to 4 times a day for a few days – this softens the skin around your toe and stops the nail growing into it
keep your foot dry for the rest of the day
wear wide, comfortable shoes or sandals
take paracetamol or ibuprofen to ease the pain
do not cut your toenail – leave it to grow out
do not pick at your toe or toenail
do not wear tight, pointy shoes
You can ask a pharmacist about:
- treatments to help ease the pain and prevent an infection
- whether you need to see a GP
Non-urgent advice: See a GP if:
- treating it at home is not helping
- your toe is very painful and swollen with pus coming out of it
- your temperature is very high or you feel hot or shivery
- you have diabetes – foot problems can be more serious if you have diabetes
Treatments for an ingrown toenail
A GP can:
- check your toe to see if it's an ingrown toenail
- give you antibiotics if your toenail is infected
If you have a badly ingrown toenail, they may refer you to a foot specialist.
Treatment from a foot specialist
A foot specialist (podiatrist) may offer further treatments, such as:
- cutting away part of the nail
- removing the whole nail
You'll have an injection of local anaesthetic to numb your toe when this is done.
Referral to a podiatrist on the NHS may not be available to everyone and waiting times can be long. You can pay to see a podiatrist privately.
How to prevent ingrown toenails
To help stop ingrown toenails:
- do not cut your toenails too short
- cut straight across the nail, not the edges
- do not wear shoes that are too tight or do not fit properly
Page last reviewed: 22 October 2018
Next review due: 22 October 2021