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.)
Toenail fungus often begins as an infection in the skin called tinea pedis (also known as athlete’s foot). The fungus often starts under the nail fold at the end of the nail. Over time, it grows underneath the nail and causes changes to its appearance, such as a yellow or brownish discoloration. It can also cause thickening and deformity of the toenail.
Dr. Kyoung Min Han is a podiatrist (foot and ankle specialist) practicing in Southern California. Dr. Han completed her undergraduate education at the University of California, San Diego, and went on to the New York College of Podiatric Medicine to pursue her medical training. She returned to her native Southern California to complete a three-year foot and ankle surgical residency, followed by subspecialty training in a sports medicine fellowship.
Athlete’s foot is one of the most common foot infections. It can be easily acquired, especially by people who often use communal showers and pools, such as those in college dorms or gyms. It grows in warm, damp places like public showers, locker rooms, and pools. It is also common with shoes that are too tight or socks or shoes that are damp. Athletes foot is contracted from getting pedicures with not properly sanitized equipment.
Nine out of 10 women are wearing shoes that are too small. The consequences aren't pretty – calluses, blisters, bunions, corns, and other problems. The constant rubbing can irritate the joints in the foot and lead to arthritis. Research suggests many kids are also wearing the wrong shoe size, which puts them at risk for foot deformities as they grow.
Athlete's foot is a form of dermatophytosis (fungal infection of the skin), caused by dermatophytes, fungi (most of which are mold) which inhabit dead layers of skin and digests keratin. Dermatophytes are anthropophilic, meaning these parasitic fungi prefer human hosts. Athlete's foot is most commonly caused by the molds known as Trichophyton rubrum and T. mentagrophytes, but may also be caused by Epidermophyton floccosum. Most cases of athlete's foot in the general population are caused by T. rubrum; however, the majority of athlete's foot cases in athletes are caused by T. mentagrophytes.
No one knows where a specific person catches the fungus, as it is everywhere. However, since the fungus does thrive in warm moist areas (like sweaty feet), there are certain areas one should avoid or use with caution. Shower floors, locker rooms, and swimming pools are suspected of being sources of the fungus, although there are no studies proving this fact. Nail polish and acrylic nails also make the nail less "breathable" and make the nail more susceptible to fungal infection. Fungi are everywhere -- in the air, the dust, and the soil. Hygienic measures such as spraying socks and footgear sound sensible, and perhaps these measures can even help a little bit. However, avoiding tight, nonbreathing shoes or steering clear of athletic facility floors may very well be the best prevention available. Daily washing of the feet and drying between the toes can help to prevent nail fungus. The fungi carried on the coats of pets, like cats and dogs, don't often cause nail fungus. Wearing white socks does not help.
Snakeroot extract is an antifungal made from plants in the sunflower family. A 2008 study showed that the remedy is as effective against toenail fungus as the prescription antifungal medicine ciclopirox. For the study, snakeroot extract was applied to the affected area every third day for the first month, twice a week for the second month, and once a week for the third month. You can find snakeroot extract online.
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.
Physical exam alone has been shown to be an unreliable method of diagnosing fungal nails. There are many conditions that can make nails look damaged, so even doctors have a difficult time. In fact, studies have found that only about 50% of cases of abnormal nail appearance were caused by fungus. Therefore, laboratory testing is almost always indicated. Some insurance companies may even ask for a laboratory test confirmation of the diagnosis in order for antifungal medicine to be covered. A nail sample is obtained either by clipping the toenail or by drilling a hole in the nail. That piece of nail is sent to a lab where it can by stained, cultured, or tested by PCR (to identify the genetic material of the organisms) to identify the presence of fungus. Staining and culturing can take up to six weeks to get a result, but PCR to identify the fungal genetic material, if available, can be done in about one day. However, this test is not widely used due to its high cost. If a negative biopsy result is accompanied by high clinical suspicion, such as nails that are ragged, discolored, thickened, and crumbly, it warrants a repeat test due to the prevalence of false-negative results in these tests.
Conventional treatment typically involves thoroughly washing the feet daily or twice daily, followed by the application of a topical medication. Because the outer skin layers are damaged and susceptible to reinfection, topical treatment generally continues until all layers of the skin are replaced, about 2–6 weeks after symptoms disappear. Keeping feet dry and practicing good hygiene (as described in the above section on prevention) is crucial for killing the fungus and preventing reinfection.
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.
Starts at the base of the nail and raises the nail up: This is called "proximal subungual onychomycosis." This is the least common type of fungal nail. It is similar to the distal type, but it starts at the cuticle (base of the nail) and slowly spreads toward the nail tip. This type almost always occurs in people with a damaged immune system. It is rare to see debris under the tip of the nail with this condition, unlike distal subungual onychomycosis. The most common cause is T. rubrum and non-dermatophyte molds.
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.
Readily available over-the-counter treatments work well for most nail-bed infections, especially early cases. An advanced toenail fungus infection may require a podiatrist’s intervention. To counteract a serious infection, medical professionals may utilize prescription topical medications, oral medications, and even laser therapy. Some cases best respond to combination therapy.
Medical treatment of onychomycosis is suggested in patients who are experiencing pain and discomfort due to the nail changes. Patients with higher risk factors for infections such as diabetes and a previous history of cellulitis (infection of the soft tissue) near the affected nails may also benefit from treatment. Poor cosmetic appearance is another reason for medical treatment.
Topical antifungal agents can be used but are often ineffective. Oral terbinafine is considered to be the first-line treatment for confirmed onychomycosis; the treatment course is generally 6 weeks for fingernails and 12 weeks for toenails.9 Azoles can also be used. Surgical debridement or removal of the affected nail is also a consideration for cases that are resistant to antifungals, and laser treatments for onychomycosis appear to be a promising area for future study.10
Removal of the nail can reduce symptoms rapidly, but regrowth of the nail can take one year during which time local treatment for fungus can be used. Oral medications include terbinafine (Lamisil), itraconazole (Sporanox), and griseofulvin (Fulvicin). Treatment regimens vary and can last between six weeks and one year. Side effects of systemic treatment include gastrointestinal disorders, liver toxicity, skin rash and other hypersensitivities. These medications should not be taken during pregnancy or if there is a chance you will become pregnant because of effects on the fetus.
Before taking action and finding the best nail fungus treatment for you, it is important to note that toenail fungus and skin fungus, such as athlete’s foot, often manifest together. For the best results, both should be treated at the same time to prevent an ongoing infection. You can recognize athlete’s foot by the dry, scaling, peeling skin on the bottom of the feet. Your feet may also itch, or exude a noticeable odor.
For more severe cases, oral antifungal medications might be required. These include fluconazole (an antifungal agent also commonly used to treat thrush), terbinafine (a broad-spectrum antifungal) and griseofulvin (usually used for skin infections). The latter is a very old drug and carries the risk of causing damage to the liver. Terbinafine is most effective and therefore is the preferred oral treatment. A 12-week course cures 70-80% of cases by causing the fungi’s cells to leak and die. It can, however, cause gastrointestinal side effects and depression.
If you have diabetes, you may have reduced blood circulation and nerve supply in your feet. You're also at greater risk of a bacterial skin infection (cellulitis). So any relatively minor injury to your feet — including a nail fungal infection — can lead to a more serious complication. See your doctor if you have diabetes and think you're developing nail fungus.