In-grown Tow Nail: Rip it out or see a podiatrist? (TMI)

Ok I have been dealing with an ingrown toe nail that has had me up nights. I stubbed the toe right on the ingrown part two days ago and nearly blacked out from the pain. (Ok that’s a little over exaggerated but you get the point)
Anyway I went to my internist when the toe was not totally infected and he gave me antibiotics and some pain meds and sent me on my way… Now two weeks later the nail is growing again - did I mention I initially tried digging the nail out last week? - and it is beginning to hurt again. The area is not as red anymore (due to the anitibiotics) but the swelling is coming back on a minimal scale. Should I break down and just go to the podiatrist? Or is there a safe method for me to do this on my own?

Anecdotes would be helpful…

Oh yeah and what ever you do don’t do a google image search of ingrown toe nails … Yuck… You’ve been warned.

Go to the doctor. I developed an ingrown toenail in my early teens, and have experienced the kind of pain you described. There were days that I couldn’t put on a sock, much less a shoe, and some nights just the weight of the sheet on my foot caused me pain. They’re no joke.

I had to get it cut out by the doc 2 or 3 times, but for the last 25 years or so I cut my toenail with a little “V” in it, to persuade the nail to grow in and sort of fill in the “V” rather than grow a sharp prong out into the side of the toe. It’s seemed to work.

The doc will spray on some topical anesthetic, dig in there and cleanly cut the prong out, then pack it with some salve and gauze. You’ll be back & kicking field goals in a few days.

Go to the doc – and make sure it’s a specialist, podiatrist. Digging it out is likely to just make things worse.

When I had my ingrown toenail, they had to basically strip off half the nail, back to the nailbed, under local anasthetic. Since then I’ve been very careful not to trim my toenails such that the sides curve in, but to trim them straight across. (so the nail edges can’t catch under the fold of skin at the edge of the nail)

It is a pretty quick recovery, even if they have to cut back the nail quite a bit. Just take extra care to avoid catching toenail fungus while things are healing and growing back (e.g., shower flip-flops when working out, cleaning your own shower frequently, don’t wander around barefoot, etc.).

My brother has had chronic ingrown toenails (on both great toes) since puberty. He’s had them cut back so many times that the nail no longer grows on the sides, just down the middle, and it sticks up off the nail bed by an 1/8th of an inch or so. Weird looking, for sure.

Get it taken care of.

We went through this with my son a few months ago. The antibiotics helped, but didn’t completely do the job. Finally the ER sent us to a podiatrist (the pediatrician sent us to the ER. I could have done without the shuffle, thanks!). The podiatrist said that, in this case at least, there were two things going on: the infection, which the antibiotics did take care of, and the mechanical irritation of the nail bed, which antibiotics wouldn’t do squat against. In his not-so-humble opinion, it simply would not get better without removal of the toenail. Sounds like yours might be a similar case, but of course we can’t diagnose anything online.

The removal was a snap, 'though the ring block of the nerves in the toe was a bit intense for the kid. Just DON’T WATCH THE REMOVAL! No, really, I mean it. I love TMI threads, pictures, videos. I’m going to become a nurse. I love this medical shit. I almost passed out watching the toenail removal done on someone else.

Oh, and his nail is growing back just fine, and much faster than the podiatrist predicted. His activities were not restricted in any way without the toenail - not even in gym class when they were doing soccer the day after the removal! Apparently, toenails are entirely optional equipment.

My best friend and I both suffered from ingrown toenails. Mine got infected and I had it fixed by a podiatrist. The procedure sucked (getting novicaine in your toe isn’t really fun) and the recovery kinda sucked but it was one of the best decisions I’ve ever made in my life. A few minutes of pain and a couple weeks of discomfort was trivial to the idea of being pain-free in my toe for good.

I told my best friend and he went and had his done as well, and he agreed that it was a super decision.

By the way…I think many insurance companies might find ingrown toenail removal to be cosmetic and therefor not covered. However, since mine was infected when I went in, it was fully covered. So you might want to take this opportunity to get it taken care of professionally.

Go to a podiatrist. If the nail is ingrown, antibiotics won’t do a thing. Well, they’ll stop the infection temporarily, but that chunk of keratin is still macheteing it’s way through the nerve.

I once spent an entire summer with an ingrown nail since the idiot PCPs in my father’s lousy HMO wouldn’t refer me to a podiatrist - they just kept telling me to soak it and put me on progressively stronger antibiotics. After 3 months of this, working a job where I was hiking up and down hills in heavy workboots all day, I left for college and brought my swollen, pus & blood soaked toe into Student Health. They cut it out that afternoon and I was walking without pain a few days later.

I had ingrown toenails as a teenager (in the 60’s) and had one nail removed completely a couple of times by our GP. Other times he gave me some orange stuff to apply on the flesh around the nail that sort of killed and hardened that part of the flesh so that the nail could grow out. Neither of these worked permanently, but they did provide temporary relief.

What worked for me was to force small amounts of sterile surgical cotton between the nail and the skin on the side(s) that were ingrown. Keep doing this for several weeks, until the sharp part of the nail that is piercing the skin has grown out, and the flesh has had a chance to heal and strengthen. Then you just have to be careful about how you trim your toenails (I trim them straight across so that the corners don’t have a chance to dig into the skin).

This all assumes no infection.

I had chronic ingrown nails. I had and internist remove from both big toes 4 times and the nailbed “killed” (First two times they removed strips, second two times they removed the entire nail.) They grew in again after the last time. My insurance finally caved and payed for a podiatrist. He removed them and finished the job correctly. Pain free for 5+ years now. Your toes look funny close up but no one can tell just looking at them from a distance.

Note: I tried the whole cut the V thing, trimming straight across etc. It doesn’t work for some/most people according to the podiatrist I went to. He removed the nails and then put some acid wash on the nailbed to finish the job. The pain after the nails are removed is less than the pain of having a badly infected ingrown nail.

There was another thread on this I responded to a couple of years ago, you may want to search for that as well.

Oh, man, that #2 picture is :eek: In perusing them, I see that I have only ever suffered from a mild ingrown toenail and don’t have much to add.

But having dropped a full liter bottle of water directly on my big toenail bed from waist height, I know what you mean by blinding pain. Now I just get to wait for the black stuff under the nail to grow out. Woo hoo!! :rolleyes:

Look at it this way…you can see a podiatrist now, or you can suffer some more, and see a podiatrist later.

I guess you know the Houston Texans had the #1 pick in the NFL draft this year. He missed practice last week or so because he was having both his big toe nails surgically removed. :eek:

My son had this very thing done by a podiatrist about 2 years ago, and no problems of course since! VERY much worth the longer healing process, according to him. I recommend, as does mchapman, that you have it done by a podiatrist, if you choose this route, so that the job is done professionally and the nails never grow back, plus any scarring is minimal. In my son’s case, the area where the nails used to be is hard, smooth and a little darker pink than the rest of his toe, and doesn’t look too bad at all. it’s clearly not a nail, of course, but it doesn’t look freakish either.


My family doc (what’s the term? PC?) has removed my ingrown nails with no problem. 2 or 3 different docs over the years and none of them acted as if it was a serious issue. 3 or 4 different insurance companies and none of them blinked since it was done in the office.
Nothing against podiatrists, but why? I mean, it’s a simple procedure that takes 15 minutes.
Last time the doc grilled me for a few minutes, like when the dentist complains about your flossing habits, and acted like she was trying to save money on anesthetic, but it was still fairly easy.

It hurts less than having the ingrown toenail, but it still hurts for a few days.

I used to do the at home minor surgery and rip mine out. It worked but I wouldn’t recommend it… and also from your description, I never had 'em that bad.

I’d agree with the others - visit a doc. Seems like it’s nasty and painful.

However, if you have minor problems in the future, I’d highly recommend the Tweezerman ingrown toenail file. It’s fantastic for preventing ingrown toenails. I wish I had this years ago.

Good luck with the toe!

Not a HUGE difference between a family doc & a podiatrist unless you will be showing your feet off in the future in sandals, etc, and would like to avoid as much scarring as possible. I had one big toe “done” in my regular internist’s office one time when it became badly infected, and the toe on the other foot done some years later, by a podiatrist. Basically they both removed about 3 milimeters of nail from the side of the nail inward, and down to the nail bed. Ingrown problem certainly resolved, and quickly! However, the podiatrist went the extra mile & treated the bare nail bed on “his” toe with some chemicals and special wrapping which prevented the bare area from scarring and/or growing back awkwardly, while my other toe, even years later, still has a scar where the skin grew together that is quite noticeable. NOT life or death, obviously. Who looks at a person’s toes anyway, right?

OP, just don’t “self-remove”, at this point, I think, would be the best advice. Once infection has set in, you do need a doc’s care, IMHO.


I’ve had this done several times, on both sides. After the nail bed is removed, it eventually starts to grow back, so expect to repeat the process at least once. But it’s not so bad after the first time. It’s not so bad the first time, either - my toe was a little tender and still oozing on day 2 of the recovery, but the akward toe-pain limp was gone and I was fully able to kick a soccer ball.

The only other thing I can add is: ask about how the podiatrist will cauterize the nail bed. I’ve had the freezing, and the acid, and the electric cauterizer. The first two are fine, I really couldn’t tell any difference after the anesthetic wore off, and the nail bed stayed dead a long long time.

The electric cauterizer, on the other hand - it was a series of disturbing, uncomfortable, full-body jolts, each of which lasted upwards of a full minute, and it didn’t really go a long way towards killing tissue. (That doctor smoked, too, which made the scene all the much funnier except for the pain. Dr. Cottle from the new Battlestar Galactica reminded me a lot of this doctor.)

Go to the podiatrist. My ex had an ingrown toenail that he was given antibiotics for by the regular doctor, and they didn’t do a damn thing. He went to the podiatrist, and though what happened briefly stung a bit*, it was, according to him, nothing compared to the pain he’d been suffering from with that toenail for so long, and by the end of the day, he said it felt much better. He had to keep the swollen part cleaned with some sort of alcohol solution, since he had a pretty mighty infection due to putting off getting it taken care of for so long. Before seeing the podiatrsit, it had become so bad, he could barely walk.

    • she literally used some large, metal instrument and ripped the ingrown half of the nail completely off. I am assured she was quite gentle and efficient, and that it wasn’t terribly painful, however, at that point, I had passed out. And I wasn’t the one having it removed!

The problem with ingrown toenails is that the infection can be deep down. You can’t really dig your way back to health. Been there done that. If it gets too bad then a regular doctor should be able to handle it. I had a toenail removed and it took about 1 minute to numb it and do the deed. Gotta love my doctor’s sense of humor. He injected me with Novocain and turned around to get the “instrument”. I casually asked him how long it would take to numb the area and he turned around and had the nail off in about 5 seconds. My eyes bugged out and I’m sure I made that “ahooga” sound heard in old cartoons. Piece of cake. You won’t be wearing sandals for awhile but it will feel great.