Infected Toenail Treatment

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Infected Toenail

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An ingrowing toenail is a common condition which may cause discomfort or become infected. It is where the side of the nail cuts into the surrounding skin. The skin may become red, inflamed and painful. Bacteria can sometimes enter the broken skin leading to an infection. This can cause crusting, weeping and pus to develop around the side of the nail.

Any toe can be affected, but it is usually the big toe. It is a common problem, especially in teenagers and young adults.

Antibiotic treatments we may prescribe if clinically appropriate:

Please see the 'Common Treatments' section below for further information.

Common Symptoms

  • a painful toenail
  • weepy discharge from the skin around the nail
  • localised redness affecting the toe
Common Treatments

Speak to your pharmacist for advice on over the counter treatments that may help such as antiseptic creams and painkillers.

If your ingrowing toenail becomes infected then you may require antibiotics.

Possible treatments we prescribe if clinically appropriate:

*Prices shown are cost price of the medication, taken from the British National Formulary 2018, and are given as a guideline. Pharmacies will add a dispensing fee to this which will vary considerably, so it is worthwhile phoning around to compare prices. The medication is paid for at your chosen pharmacy. 

Please click on the medication above to read the Patient Information Leaflet for important information about each drug. We use national prescribing guidelines to select which treatment would be most appropriate for your condition. 

Risk factors

Various factors can increase your risk of developing ingrowing toenails. These include:

  • not cutting your toenails correctly
  • tight footwear
  • sweating a lot 
  • nail deformities
  • nail injury
  • fungal nail infection

To help prevent an ingrown toenail from developing, avoid tight fitting shoes, air your feet as much as possible, wear cotton and not synthetic socks and keep your feet clean and dry. Ensure you cut your nails straight across and not short or rounded at the edges. 


You may be able to treat an ingrowing toenail in its early stages at home if it is not infected.  

  • Soak your foot in salt water for 10 minutes
  • Using a cotton wool bud push the skin fold over the ingrown nail away from it.
  • Push a small piece of rolled cotton wool or dental floss under the nail to help it grow over the skin and not into it.
  • Repeat the above daily until the nail has grown away from the skin. Once the nail has grown then cut it straight across and not rounded at the corners.

If an ingrowing toenail does not improve then you may require surgery to treat it. This can involve either a partial nail avulsion or a total nail avulsion. 

A partial nail avulsion is where the edges of the toenail are cut away after an injection of local anaesthetic into the toe. 

A total nail avulsion is where the full nail is removed. This is usually done when the nail has thickened making a partial nail avulsion difficult. 

Sometimes an infection of the ingrowing toenail may spread causing a cellulitis. This will usually cause a spreading redness affecting the skin of the foot, which feels hot and tender. 

Antibiotic Resistance

Antibiotics should be used responsibly and only when really necessary. Overuse and misuse of antibiotics can lead to antibiotic resistance. This is where the antibiotic becomes less effective at treating certain types of bacterial infection, so they do not work when needed. 

Antibiotics should be taken as prescribed, and it is important to complete the full course, this can reduce the chance of the bacteria developing an immunity to that antibiotic. It is important not to share antibiotics, and always take unused medication to your local pharmacy for disposal.

Start an infected toenail diagnosis

Do you think you have an infected ingrowing toenail?

We could diagnose and send you a treatment plan with a prescription, if appropriate, within an hour.