Prescription oral antifungals such as terbinafine (Lamisil) or fluconazole (Diflucan) are traditionally used to treat toenail fungus. These treatments are often effective, but they may cause serious side effects ranging from upset stomach and dizziness to severe skin problems and jaundice. This may be why many people try home remedies instead. Here are 10 of these popular at-home treatments.
Because fungal spores can remain viable for months in these environments, frequent exposure can increase the risk of infection (and re-infection). Fungal spores can be picked up in many ways – such as wearing shoes that harbour the organism, by walking barefoot in areas where the fungus is prevalent (especially public showers and locker rooms), by wearing wet shoes or socks for long periods, through previous injury to the toe or toenail that opens a path for easy entry of the fungus, or by wearing improperly-fitting shoes.
The first step is to take a history of the problem,” said Mark Hinkes, DPM, CEO of HappyFeet LLC, and a podiatrist with 40 years experience. “In other words, I want to know how long have you had this and what previous treatment you’ve had.” A podiatrist needs to understand the extent of the problem, and also any other medical factors which may influence their choice of treatment.
Onychomycosis does not necessarily require treatment. The antifungal medication, terbinafine, taken by mouth appears to be the most effective but is associated with liver problems. Trimming the affected nails when on treatment also appears useful. There is a ciclopirox containing nail polish, but it does not work as well. The condition returns in up to half of cases following treatment. Not using old shoes after treatment may decrease the risk of recurrence.
What you need to know about fungal infections Some fungi occur naturally in the body, and they can be helpful or harmful. An infection occurs when an invasive fungus becomes too much for the immune system to handle. We describe the most common types, including yeast infection, jock itch, and ringworm. Here, learn about risk factors and the range of treatments. Read now
Over-the-counter antifungal treatments. Antifungal creams and ointments treat toenail infections while helping to keep new fungus out so new nails can grow. Some treatments must be applied every day, others are applied once a week. It’s a good idea to apply topical treatments to both the foot and nail simultaneously to prevent foot fungus from spreading to the toes. If you trim your toenails well (see above) before applying an antifungal, the medicine can reach deeper into the nailbed.
If the fungal infection has spread to the toenails, the nails must also be treated to avoid reinfection of the feet. Often, the nails are initially ignored only to find the athlete's foot keeps recurring. It is important to treat all of the visible fungus at the same time. Effective nail fungus treatment may be more intensive and require prolonged courses (three to four months) of oral antifungal medications.
Use tea tree oil. Tea tree oil is a natural anti-fungal. One study showed that tea tree oil may be effective for nail fungus. 18% of patients who used tea tree oil twice daily for 24 weeks were cleared of the infection. To treat nail fungus with tea tree oil, use a 100% solution because lower concentrations have not been proven to be effective for this particular infection.
Yeast infection treatment depends on the specific kind of infection that is being treated. Skin yeast infections are highly treatable with medicated creams. Medicated suppositories may be used to treat yeast infections in the vagina. Thrush may be treated with a medicated mouthwash or lozenges that dissolve in the mouth. Severe infections or infections in someone with a compromised immune system may be treated with oral anti-yeast medications.
*All medications have both common (generic) and brand names. The brand name is what a specific manufacturer calls the product (e.g., Tylenol®). The common name is the medical name for the medication (e.g., acetaminophen). A medication may have many brand names, but only one common name. This article lists medications by their common names. For information on a given medication, check our Drug Information database. For more information on brand names, speak with your doctor or pharmacist.
There are several preventive foot hygiene measures that can prevent athlete's foot and reduce recurrence. Some of these include keeping the feet dry, clipping toenails short; using a separate nail clipper for infected toenails; using socks made from well-ventilated cotton or synthetic moisture wicking materials (to soak moisture away from the skin to help keep it dry); avoiding tight-fitting footwear, changing socks frequently; and wearing sandals while walking through communal areas such as gym showers and locker rooms.
A number of different types of fungus can cause onychomycosis including dermatophytes and Fusarium. Risk factors include athlete's foot, other nail diseases, exposure to someone with the condition, peripheral vascular disease, and poor immune function. The diagnosis is generally suspected based on the appearance and confirmed by laboratory testing.
Keeping socks and shoes clean (using bleach in the wash) is one way to prevent fungi from taking hold and spreading. Avoiding the sharing of boots and shoes is another way to prevent transmission. Athlete's foot can be transmitted by sharing footwear with an infected person. Hand-me-downs and purchasing used shoes are other forms of shoe-sharing. Not sharing also applies to towels, because, though less common, fungi can be passed along on towels, especially damp ones.
I fully believe in natural remedies as well as safe, pharmaceutical ones. I have all of the ingredients and essential oils necessary to make my own potions, but as a busy, working Mom I chose the easy route of purchasing the potion already made up. I used this religiously for over a month. I cleaned and trimmed my affected 4 toenails constantly through the process. I saw absolutely no results. Yes, the painted on 2nd step does temporarily improve the appearance of the nail instantly, but that's because of the glossy sheen. Any oil will do that. Once soaked in, my nail looked and remained the same. Perhaps my failure was a result of dipping the brush I used on my infected toes and back into the bottle repeated times. Doesn't that seem counter productive given a fast-spreading fungus? They're slowly growing out but the fungus remains in the grow out and my nails are still thin and fragile. I would have given this product one more star with a pat on the back and a "nice try" but the huge number of immediate, 5-star reviews left me with the instant feeling of being mislead. I may have even given it more time with more realistic reviews.
Unfortunately, athlete’s foot is highly contagious and the fungus can easily spread to the toes and toenails, causing infections. There are more than three million cases of toenail fungus in the US every year. Not all toenail infections are from athlete’s foot or even from a fungus; some are caused by yeast or mold. These are much harder to cure than fungal infections.
Modern medicine addresses toenail fungus with topical treatments, oral anti-fungal medicine, and in some cases surgical removal of the nail. Side effects of these medications may possibly include trouble breathing, swelling of the mouth or face, hives, rashes, blisters, headaches, dizziness, nausea, loss of appetite, liver damage, weight gain, fatigue, heart problems, fever, diarrhea, and more pain – all just to get rid of fungus on your toenails.
Creams and other topical medications have traditionally been less effective against nail fungus than oral medications. This is because nails are too hard for external applications to penetrate. It is also cumbersome to adhere to topical medication regimens. Oftentimes, these medications require daily applications for a period of time up to one year to see results. One of the major advantages of topical treatment is the minimal risk for serious side effects and drug interactions compared to oral therapy.
Swelling and redness of the skin around the nail is called paronychia. This is an infection of the skin at the bottom of the nail (cuticle). If the infection is acute (has a rapid onset), it is usually caused by bacteria. It may respond to warm soaks but will often need to be drained by a doctor. A chronic paronychia occurs when a cuticle becomes inflamed or irritated over time. Sometimes, yeast will take advantage of the damaged skin and infect the area as well. Therapy begins with keeping the skin dry and out of water. If the problem continues, a physician should be consulted. Antibiotics are not often used but may be necessary in severe infection.
Orange essential oil is another natural anti-fungal that can be applied daily to toenails in order to cure an infection. Apply a drop of Plant Therapy Orange Oil on nails and between toes. Let the oil soak in for at least one hour. Orange oil may be too strong for people with sensitive skin. If you find this is the case for you, dilute the oil with an all-natural carrier such as olive oil. Also, because citrus allergies are somewhat common, it is recommended to test orange oil on a spot of healthy skin before applying it to infected nails. (Many health and wellness stores have open ‘testers’ of their products for just such a purpose.)
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Fungal nails (onychomycosis) may be caused by many species of fungi, but the most common is Trichophyton rubrum. Distal subungal onychomycosis starts as a discolored area at the nail's corner and slowly spread toward the cuticle. In proximal subungal onychomycosis, the infection starts at the cuticle and spreads toward the nail tip. Yeast onychomycosis is caused by Candida and may be the most common cause of fungal fingernail.
Fungal nail infections can be difficult to treat. Talk with your doctor if self-care strategies and over-the-counter (nonprescription) products haven't helped. Treatment depends on the severity of your condition and the type of fungus causing it. It can take months to see results. And even if your nail condition improves, repeat infections are common.
Fungal infection occurs when the organism invades through an opening in the nail, meaning fungi will usually attack nails that are already damaged. After infection occurs, the growth of the fungi leads to mild inflammation, which causes the nail to thicken and the nail plate to detach from the nail bed. The space underneath the nail can then serve as a reservoir for bacteria and moulds, which can cause the nail to become discoloured.
If the diagnosis is uncertain, direct microscopy of a potassium hydroxide preparation of a skin scraping (known as a KOH test) can confirm the diagnosis of athlete's foot and help rule out other possible causes, such as candidiasis, pitted keratolysis, erythrasma, contact dermatitis, eczema, or psoriasis. Dermatophytes known to cause athlete's foot will demonstrate multiple septate branching hyphae on microscopy.
Medications in tablet form are much more effective at fighting nail fungus than topical treatments are, but they aren’t guaranteed to work and also have more side effects, long treatment durations and possible interactions. (7) Another downside is that they are like putting a Band-Aid on the problem — they’re not addressing why the fungus developed in the first place.
Making a few simple lifestyle changes can help prevent a fungal infection of the nails. Taking good care of your nails by keeping them well trimmed and clean is a good way to prevent infections. You should also avoid injuring the skin around your nails. If you’re going to have damp or wet hands for an extended amount of time, you may want to wear rubber gloves.