Ingrown toenail

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.

Do

  • 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

Don't

  • 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

See a GP if:

  • treating it at home isn't 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:

  • don't cut your toenails too short
  • cut straight across the nail, not the edges
  • don't wear shoes that are too tight or don't fit properly

Page last reviewed: 22/10/2018
Next review due: 22/10/2021