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Ingrown toe nails: a common winter and summer problem in Chicago, Part 3


Photo by: Cozy Toes

This is part three of a three-part series on ingrown toe nails. Part one gave an introduction and discussed the causes of ingrown toe nails. Part two discussed the symptoms, the diagnosis and conservative treatment at home. Part three discusses when to see your doctor, what s/he might do, complications and prevention.

When to see your doctor

It is wise to see a doctor when you are having problems at any time. If the home remedies are not helping or if you have general medical problems that put you at higher risk of complications, then see your doctor immediately.

Use of antibiotics

Over the counter antibiotic ointments are helpful in controlling local infection. Your doctor may prescribe antibiotics by mouth / injection.


There are many surgical treatments for IGTN. Each surgeon has his or her choice and what that works according in their experience. Discuss this with your doctor. If the nail is avulsed (partially or completely) then it may take six months to grow again. Keep it thinned out and keep the area free from debris. If the nail and nail bed is removed then the nail will not grow again. This presents a cosmetic problem, especially for women.


If ignored or not treated properly the infection can spread to the bone of the toe causing osteomyelitis. If there are problems (e.g. diabetes) the treatment may not be easy, hence treatment should be aggressive to prevent loss of the toe or the limb.


  • Tell your pedicurist to keep the length of the nail till the tip of the toe and cut it straight. Always cut the nail straight across beyond the junction of the nail bed and the skin of the toe. Do not cut the edge of the toe nail in a rounded shape before the edge of the nail bed margin. It is better to have a hole in the socks rather than to lose a toe.
  • If the nails are thick, deformed or have fungus get them treated before an IGTN develops.
  • Wear protective shoes (steel-toe) to prevent accidental injury to the toe. Wear wide toe shoes and special shoes if you have a history of nail problems.

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