Why You Should Never Remove an Ingrown Toenail on Your Own

by | Mar 27, 2019

Most people prefer to handle “minor” medical problems on their own if at all possible.

We totally understand that! After all, you probably don’t need to see a specialist every time you have a headache or a little bit of stiffness or soreness. For the most part, minor aches and pains can be resolved with rest, over-the-counter medications (used as directed), and a little time.

However, if you’re considering a little “bathroom surgery” to deal with an ingrown toenail that has become painful, please take our advice: Don’t. You will likely make the problem worse, and there are better alternatives available at our office.

A Little Background: What Is an Ingrown Toenail?

Sometimes, an ingrown toenail occurs when the edge or the corner of a toenail snags and cuts into the soft, vulnerable flesh surrounding it. Other times, it is just how your nail grows.

Ingrown toenails can be extremely painful, and the skin may appear swollen and red. If they aren’t treated promptly, ingrown toenails can become infected. If you have diabetes, neuropathy, or poor circulation, the risk of infection is higher.

Possible contributing causes include:

  • Wearing shoes that don’t fit. Shoes that are too tight can pinch nails, while shoes that are too lose may slide around and repeatedly crash into your toes.
  • Poor nail trimming. Cutting nails too short, leaving them too long, or rounding the corners too much can all increase your risk.
  • Genetics. You may have been born with toenails that are naturally prone to becoming ingrown.

Why You Shouldn’t Take Matters Into Your Own Hands

So now that you know a little bit more about ingrown toenails, let’s explain why trying to remove them yourself is such a bad idea.

“Bathroom Surgery” Significantly Increases Your Infection Risk

Removing an ingrown toenail is a simple, straightforward, and safe procedure … for a podiatrist who has been specially trained to perform it.

Attempting to do so yourself, however, can be extremely dangerous.

Many people attempt to dig out their ingrown toenail with a pair of nail clippers (or even scissors) before seeing us for help. While we understand why you would want to try to “pull” the nail edge out of your skin yourself, this often just makes the problem worse.

This type of “bathroom surgery” can create a wide opening for bacteria to get under the nail and into the skin. And rather than removing the ingrown toenail from the safety of a doctor’s office, you’ll be doing it in an unsanitary area.

These factors greatly increase the risk of developing a nasty infection. That means more swelling and pain, and the possibility that you may even lose the toe!

Even Conservative Home Care Comes With Risks

What about conservative ingrown toenail remedies? If you search online, you’ll find many articles that suggest soaking your feet in warm soapy water and using antibiotic ointment can help with a painful ingrown toenail, among other methods.

While it’s true that some of these home care options can temporarily relieve some of your discomfort, ingrown toenails will not always go away on their own. You only increase your risk of infection and experience more pain the longer you wait to treat the issue.

There are also some “home remedies” that we do not recommend. Any home treatment that attempts to “splint” the toenail (using dental floss or cotton, for example) can make it easier for germs to enter the body. And don’t bother cutting a “V” notch in your toenail. It doesn’t work.

Professional Care Is Quick, Safe, and Permanent

While removing an ingrown toenail on your own can be painful and risky, having it professionally removed by Northwood Foot and Ankle Center couldn’t be easier.

Many people avoid seeing a doctor because they’re afraid that the “cure will be worse than the disease.” But that fear just doesn’t apply in this case.

Your toe will be numbed with a local anesthetic, so you won’t feel any discomfort during the procedure. Then, we’ll remove a small section of the nail border that’s causing you trouble and cauterize the nail matrix beneath it, so it won’t grow back. The recurrence rate after this procedure is low, even for people who have struggled with ingrown toenails their entire lives.

The end result is cosmetically pleasing, and the entire procedure takes less than 15 minutes. By the time the anesthetic wears off, you’ll feel relief and be able to go back to almost all your regular activities right away.

So why risk your health with another “bathroom surgery” when you can get complete treatment so easily at our office?

To schedule an appointment at one of our convenient locations, please call your preferred office today:

  • Holland: (616) 393-9975
  • Joseph: (269) 429-9981

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Holland Office

388 Garden Avenue, Suite 120
Holland, MI 49424
Phone: 616-393-8886
Fax: 616-393-9975



Holland: Mon - Fri, 8am - 5pm

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