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Molly Maloof, MD

Director of Clinical Content

Will ingrown toenails heal themselves?

I'm an 18 year old male with an ingrown toenail, a result of terrible toenail cutting. After it looked infected, I saw my doctor and she prescribed a topical and an oral antibiotic, and said that it would fix itself in about a week. I was unable to confirm this from any reliable source on the internet, and considering the "physics", so to speak, of an ingrown toenail, I can't imagine how this would happen. Is it true that ingrown toenails will come out on their own, or is a 2nd opinion?
  • Male | 18 years old
  • Complaint duration: 11 days
  • Medications: smz/tmp ds tablets, mupirocin ointment (both prescribed by doctor for this problem)
  • Conditions: None

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Featured Answer

12 UpVoted this answer Mark Bradley, D.podM, Bsc Hons Podiatrist, Mississauga
If the problem was a result of the bad cutting job and you didn't have an ingrown toenail before, it is likely that after the infection is resolved and the new piece of toenail grows out, that it will be ok. If you have had a series of ingrown toenails, unrelated to a bad job of trimming, then you will probably have continued problems until you do something the root of that ingrown piece of the toenail. If this is necessary it can be done right in the office without any cutting of the skin and you can return to most activities right away. It normally takes about 4 weeks for this to heal completely and during that time there might be some shoes and activities that aren't comfortable.
Gary Cramer
8 UpVoted this answer
No they will not. Period. The portion of the nail border(s) that is down deep in the skin and had caused infection. The nail border is either deformed (curved) or it is caused by the patient improperly trimming the toenail. Therefore, the offending nail border(s) must be removed for this problem to resolve and the infection to go away and heal. The toenail is acting like a splinter of wood, a foreign body so to speak. It's not "self". The does not recognize the nail as "self", hence, mounting a foreign body reaction and infection. To remove the ingrown nail the podiatrist will have to see you in his office. He will numb your toe with a local anesthetic, yes a shot! It stings a little or may be a lot!! Lay back please!! But, once the toe is numb, the podiatrist will put aneseptic on the toe, then they will trim out the ingrown border(s) straight back to the end of nail just underneath the skin. Once removed, the podiatrist may treat the nail with a chemical to prevent the ingrown nail from returning in the side(s) where it occurred in the first place. The remaining nail will stay and grow normally over time. The doctor will wrap the toe after applying an antibiotic ointment to the toe. The dressing will remain for a couple of days. You should be given redress and soaking instructions which you will follow for 1-2 weeks. You will wear a regular shoe. You can get it wet after 24 hours and post-op is minimal.
Joseph Borreggine
7 UpVoted this answer
Your physics is correct. If the nail is penetrating the nail fold, it will not heal without intervention. Contact your local podiatrist for treatment.
David J. Cho
6 UpVoted this answer
The best way to correct an infected ingrown toenail is to have a podiatric physician numb the toe with a local anesthetic injection and then have the part of the ingrown toenail taken out and allow the infection to clear. Using oral antibiotics is not necessary. It is true that the nail MIGHT grow out on its own but also more likely to still stick into the skin and cause further infection. Further, the excessive use of antibiotics cause antibiotic resistance so better to get rid of the source rather than use antibiotics.
Lowell Weil
4 UpVoted this answer
If the ingrown nail does not resolve on its own within a short period of time (7-10days) then it needs to be removed. Antibiotics do not resolve the underlying issue of the offending nail digging into the toe.
Seth Steber
3 UpVoted this answer
generally speaking the answer would be NO. You can have a permanent nail matrixectomy by a number of different methods. Your Podiatrist will remove the ingrown part of the toe nail and destroy the root or matrix. After a few short weeks of soaks the ingrown toe nail will never grow back and cause any more problems. Good luck and call your Podiatrist.
Flavio Cordano
3 UpVoted this answer
An ingrown toenail cannot "heal" itself. As the nail continues to grow, the part of the toenail which has grown into the surrounding soft tissue will grow as well, causing it to become worse. Topical or oral antibiotics only help the symptoms and sometimes they are not even needed. However, the underlying condition is still the ingrown toenail which needs to be removed. There are different procedures depending on the severity, presence of infection, reoccurrence of the condition and vascular status of the foot. They include simple wedge resection without an injectable local anesthetic, or temporary or permanent partial nail removal with local anesthesia, all performed in the office with minimal time for recovery.
Babak A. Giladi
3 UpVoted this answer
Often when a patient sees a primary care physician with an infected ingrown nail, they get the same treatment and advice you received. Usually the toe will inprove temporarily with the oral antibiotics only to become red and infected again shortly after finishing the antibiotics. You need to have the offending nail border removed in order to resolve the problem. If this is the first time it has happened, I will often just do an incision and drainage and advise the patient the nail border will grow back in 6 month to a year. If the ingrown nail comes back and the toe gets infected again, then I will do a partial matrixectomy where the offending nail border is permanently removed.
Thomas R. Komp
2 UpVoted this answer
This doctor was wrong. Also, it is always unwise to consider any opinion via the internet to be correct, as everyone's specific situation is different, with it's associated different conditions. A face-to-face encounter with the proper specialist is always the definitive method.
2 UpVoted this answer
Most ingrown nails do not get better unless you get a minor nail procedure done. Go see a nearest podiatrist in your town. Meanwhile take antibiotics, soak feet in Epsom salt solution and avoid irritating the area by wearing tight fitting shoes.