Not all cases of OM require treatment with medication but if your doctor has confirmed you have OM and require treatment, they may prescribe an oral antifungal medication (terbinafine, itraconazole*) based on the type of fungus causing the infection. If you are unable to take oral antifungals or have a mild-to-moderate case of OM, your doctor may opt for a topical therapy (ciclopirox, efinaconazole*) that is applied to the affected nail(s) directly.
Although treatment is usually sought for cosmetic reasons, nail fungus can be serious and should be treated. For example, if it is a severe infection, it can cause permanent damage to your nails. The infection can also spread beyond your nails, especially if you are in a high risk group, such as people with diabetes or impaired immune systems. High-risk people can develop cellulitis, a skin tissue infection, if toe fungus isn't treated.
Candida albicans is a common yeast that grows inside the human body. In healthy people, other bacteria and immune cells keep this yeast under control so it doesn’t cause any problems, but in some people candida can become overgrown and cause infections in various areas. One of the ways candida shows up is through the skin where it can cause noticeable reactions or infections. Other ways are on the mouth, vagina and anus.
Fungus can infect the skin and nails of your feet. A fungal infection of the skin is also known as Athlete’s Foot, which causes itching, burning, and flaking. This infection can spread to the toenails if it’s not treated. Both types of foot fungus are extremely contagious, both in your own body as well as to other people through contact. Therefore, it’s essential to treat the infection and prevent its recurrence.
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.
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.
Vicks VapoRub is a topical ointment. Although designed for cough suppression, its active ingredients, camphor and eucalyptus oil, may help treat toenail fungus. A 2011 study found Vicks VapoRub had a “positive clinical effect” in the treatment of toenail fungus. To use, apply a small amount of Vicks VapoRub to the affected area at least once a day.
Oregano oil contains thymol. According to a 2016 review, thymol has antifungal and antibacterial properties. To treat toenail fungus, apply oregano oil to the affected nail twice daily with a cotton swab. Some people use oregano oil and tea tree oil together. Both products are potent and may cause irritation or allergic reaction. Combining them may increase this risk. You can also find oregano oil online.
*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.
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