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.
When athlete's foot fungus or infested skin particles spread to one's environment (such as to clothes, shoes, bathroom, etc.) whether through scratching, falling, or rubbing off, not only can they infect other people, they can also reinfect (or further infect) the host they came from. For example, infected feet infest one's socks and shoes which further expose the feet to the fungus and its spores when worn again.
Nail infections occur more often in men than in women, and the infections are found in adults more often than in children. If you have family members who often get these types of fungal infections, you’re more likely to get them as well. Older adults are at the highest risk for getting fungal infections of the nails because they have poorer circulation and their nails grow more slowly and thicken as they age.
The US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has approved several medicines as topical applications to help treat foot and toenail fungus and prevent the fungus from recurring. PROFOOT anti-fungal products containing Tolnaftate 1% are clinically proven to cure and prevent fungal infections on skin around, adjacent to, and under nails, making it easy to treat fungal infections all day, every day, until they have cleared. ProClearz Fungal Shield is a safe and effective clear formula that dries quickly with no unpleasant odor. The 1 oz. bottle comes with a brush-on applicator designed to reach skin areas around and under nails.
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.
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.
Many podiatrists now consider this an effective treatment, but because it’s new, there’s not enough concrete data to compare with other treatments. Dr. Hinkes raises another concern: “A clinical cure and a mycological cure are two different things. With the clinical cure, you look at the nail and it looks fine. It’s pink and shiny and smooth and it looks great. But if you sample the nail, you might find that there’s mold or fungus there, so it does not have what we call a mycological cure—mycology is the study of fungi.
Onychomycosis (toenail fungus) is an infection of the nail and sometimes surrounding tissue. It is extremely common with 20 percent of the general population and 75 percent of people over 60 years old affected. Frequently the problem causes cosmetic concerns, but many patients also experience pain. Sometimes toenail fungus can allow more serious infections to develop.
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Fungal nail infections don’t usually lead to serious long-term problems when properly treated, but they may be more serious in certain individuals. This can include people with diabetes or who have a weakened immune system and have trouble fighting off an infection. Even if there is no pain associated with the infection, it is important that you promptly visit your doctor for assessment if you see any abnormal nail changes.
You may use other antifungal treatments, such as antifungal nail lacquer or topical solutions. These treatments are brushed onto the nail in the same way that you would apply nail polish. Depending on the type of fungus causing the infection, as well as the extent of the infection, you may have to use these medications for several months. Topical solutions are not generally effective in curing toenail fungal infections.
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.
Ringworm of the beard, or tinea barbae, is similar to ringworm of the scalp in that the fungus infects both the skin and the hair follicle. The most common type of tinea barbae is an infection deep in the skin that causes very red nodules on the face with pus that drains and tunnels through the skin to other areas close to the nodules. A less common type of tinea barbae is a mild infection on the surface of the skin.
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.)
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.
For this treatment, the affected toe or finger first has to be soaked in warm water for ten minutes and then dried. After that, the urea-based cream is applied to the nail, and the nail is covered with an adhesive bandage. After 24 hours, the bandage is removed and the toe or finger is held in warm water again. The softened layer of the nail is then scraped off using a spatula, the cream is applied again and the nail is covered with a new bandage. This treatment is carried out over 14 days. Once the infected part of the nail has been scraped away completely, the skin beneath is treated for another four weeks with a bifonazole cream.
I can tell you my own mother struggled with toenail fungus on her big toe for over 10 years, and the reason why she originally got it and then continued to struggle with this fungus was the chemotherapy she went through when diagnosed with breast cancer years ago. After going through chemo, she had systemic yeast and candida issues and then developed the toenail fungus. The exact treatment I detail below is what we used with her to successfully erase her fungus.
If you have diabetes or a weakened immune system, treatment is especially important. After getting a fungal nail infection, people who have diabetes have an increased risk of developing sores that do not heal. Sores that do not heal can lead to a serious health problem. It’s important to see a dermatologist (or other doctor) at the first sign of a nail problem. A dermatologist can tell you whether you have a nail infection or something else.