Topical treatment (polish or cream) isn’t likely to get rid of a fungal nail infection. Treatment with tablets is considerably more effective and takes less time. But some people can’t take tablets because of the very rare, yet serious risks. How you feel about the pros and cons of the different treatment options is a personal matter. You can also discuss the options with your doctor.
Globally, fungal infections affect about 15% of the population and affects one out of five adults. Athlete's foot is common in individuals who wear unventilated (occlusive) footwear, such as rubber boots or vinyl shoes. Countries and regions where going barefoot is more common experience much lower rates of athlete's foot than do populations which habitually wear shoes; as a result, the disease has been called "a penalty of civilization". Studies have demonstrated that men are infected 2–4 times more often than women.
Onychomycosis – commonly known as toenail fungus – is characterized by inflammation, pain, and swelling of the toe, as well as yellowing, thickening, and crumbling of the nail itself. Toenail fungus can be the result of abnormal pH of the skin, continuous exposure to moisture, wearing synthetic socks, compromised immune system, sweat build-up in shoes, poor foot hygiene, or weak circulation such as that caused by diabetes.
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.
Topical treatment is also usually recommended for children. One reason for this is that most oral medications aren’t suitable for children. Another reason is that children have thinner nails that grow more quickly, so it’s assumed that treatment with nail polish or creams is more likely to work in children than in adults. White superficial onychomycosis is also often treated with a nail polish or cream.
Topical agents include ciclopirox nail paint, amorolfine, and efinaconazole. Some topical treatments need to be applied daily for prolonged periods (at least 1 year). Topical amorolfine is applied weekly. Topical ciclopirox results in a cure in 6% to 9% of cases; amorolfine might be more effective. Ciclopirox when used with terbinafine appears to be better than either agent alone.
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.
Athlete’s foot infections can be mild or severe. Some clear up quickly, and others last a long time. Athlete’s foot infections generally respond well to antifungal treatment. However, sometimes fungal infections are difficult to eliminate. Long-term treatment with antifungal medications may be necessary to keep athlete’s foot infections from returning.
Sporty, fitted sandals and other "toning shoes" are designed for a more intense workout while walking. The American Council on Exercise says there's no evidence to support that claim, but they may have other benefits. The thick sole keeps your foot off the ground and away from debris. And Brenner points out, "they do have really good arch support." Several have a seal of approval from the American Podiatric Medical Association.
Onychomycosis patients may need to learn new, healthier habits to stop the fungus growing back. These could include protecting toes from sources of infection, wearing correctly fitting footwear, laundering socks in hot water with disinfectant, wearing protective footwear at the pool and gym, keeping nails short, using open-toed footwear and wearing shoes made of breathable material.
You can also try itraconazole (Sporanox), which is usually prescribed with a dose of 200 mg a day for 12 weeks. Side effects can include nausea, rash, or liver enzyme abnormalities. It should not be used if you have liver issues. Sporanox also has interactions with over 170 different drugs such as Vicodin and Prograf. Check with your doctor to ensure any medication you are taking does not interfere with it.
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