If your toe hurts alongside the nail and has become red and inflamed, you probably have an ingrown toenail. The nail has grown down into the skin along one side of the toe, although it may not have actually broken the skin. Ignoring the symptoms can result in the problem getting worse. Use some effective strategies to resolve this issue and prevent it from happening again. 

Enjoy an Epsom Salt Foot Bath

Medically known as magnesium sulfate, Epsom salt is available in drugstores and discount department stores. Pour 1/2 cup in a container of warm water and use this to soak your foot. Doing so will soften the nail, allowing you to massage the toe and bring the nail upward. 

Thoroughly dry your foot or allow it to air dry. Then apply a topical antiseptic ointment or cream to prevent infection if you can see that the nail had indeed broken through the skin. Tape some cotton gauze around the toe or apply an adhesive bandage, being careful to keep any adhesive away from the inflamed area.  

The nail will have a tendency to sink back down, so plan on repeating this process daily for a week or so. 

Wear the Right Shoes

Wear sandals or shoes that are open at the toes when you can. If this isn't allowed where you work or the weather is too cold for this to be reasonable, at least choose shoes that don't put pressure on the toes. 

Consult a Podiatrist

If you start experiencing signs of infection, contact a foot doctor for help. Signs of infection include drainage from the break in your skin and increased pain and redness. The podiatrist may trim away any skin that is infected and remove a small part of the toenail where it is causing problems. The doctor will probably apply a local anesthetic. The procedure gives your toe time to heal as new nail growth gradually appears.

If the problem is particularly severe, the doctor may have to completely remove the nail. This can be somewhat distressing if you care about the attractiveness of your feet, but the toenail will gradually grow back.  

Prevent Recurrence

To prevent an ingrown toenail in the future, trim your toenails straight across rather than rounding them. Avoid trimming them shorter than the tip of your toe, since a toenail of moderate length is less likely to curve into the skin. Continue wearing shoes that are not tight around the toes. 

For more information, contact West Central Podiatry Consultants or a similar organization.