Toenail fungus (onychomycosis) is caused by a group of fungi known as dermophytes. This group thrives on skin and on keratin, the main component of hair and nails. The fungus gets under the nail and begins to grow, damaging the nail so it discolors, becoming white, brown or yellow. Eventually, the nail might thicken, harden, become brittle and even fall off.
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.
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.
Other risk factors include perspiring heavily, being in a humid or moist environment, psoriasis, wearing socks and shoes that hinder ventilation and do not absorb perspiration, going barefoot in damp public places such as swimming pools, gyms and shower rooms, having athlete's foot (tinea pedis), minor skin or nail injury, damaged nail, or other infection, and having diabetes, circulation problems, which may also lead to lower peripheral temperatures on hands and feet, or a weakened immune system.
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.
Rotate your shoes – Change your shoes often. Even though you may have that favorite pair that you like to wear all the time, it is better for your feet to switch up your shoes from time to time. Even wearing the same pair of shoes two days in a row can elevate your risk for toenail fungus. Place shoes that you are not wearing in an area where they will get plenty of air.
Because athlete's foot may itch, it may also elicit the scratch reflex, causing the host to scratch the infected area before they realize it. Scratching can further damage the skin and worsen the condition by allowing the fungus to more easily spread and thrive. The itching sensation associated with athlete's foot can be so severe that it may cause hosts to scratch vigorously enough to inflict excoriations (open wounds), which are susceptible to bacterial infection. Further scratching may remove scabs, inhibiting the healing process.
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.
Try using oil of oregano along with another essential oil called melaleuca, which is also known as tea tree oil. The uses of tea tree oil will astound you, including its ability to act as a natural antifungal agent. Use these two oils topically on your toenail fungus daily. I recommend three drops of oil of oregano and two drops of melaleuca applied directly on the toenail, four times a day, ideally.
Whitish or yellowish nails can occur due to onycholysis. This means separation of the nail from the nail bed. The color you see is air beneath the nail. The treatment is to trim the nail short, don't clean under it, polish if you want to hide the color, and wait two to three months. Persistent onycholysis can make the nails susceptible to fungal infection.
For fungus infection, there are plenty of options. Many medications are available, including miconazole (Micatin, Zeasorb powder), econazole (Spectazole), clotrimazole (Lotrimin), terbinafine (Lamisil), naftifine (Naftin), butenafine (Mentax), ciclopirox (Loprox), ketoconazole (Nizoral), efinaconazole (Jublia), luliconazole (Luzu), sertaconazole (Ertaczo), sulconazole (Exelderm), and tolnaftate (Tinactin). Ask your health care professional or pharmacist for a recommendation. It is difficult to know which of these drugs is most effective since they have not been tested against each other. Cost is probably the most significant differentiating factor, and many are available without a prescription. Treatment for athlete's foot should generally be continued for four weeks or at least one week after all of the skin symptoms have cleared.
The Internet is filled with anecdotal information on how to cure toenail fungus using home remedies. Vinegar is a commonly recommended home remedy. Some people apply various oils such as tea tree oil, coconut oil, essential oils, and oil of cedar leaf (such as Vicks VapoRub) to their nails as well. The effectiveness of these home remedies is highly doubtful. Application of household bleach and hydrogen peroxide is also not recommended due to lack of evidence that these treatments work. These agents can also cause unwanted skin irritation. Thickened nails that have been affected by fungus can be difficult to trim. Using topical urea cream will soften the nail and make it easier to trim. These creams do not require a prescription.
Oral medications include terbinafine (76% effective), itraconazole (60% effective) and fluconazole (48% effective). They share characteristics that enhance their effectiveness: prompt penetration of the nail and nail bed, and persistence in the nail for months after discontinuation of therapy. Ketoconazole by mouth is not recommended due to side effects. Oral terbinafine is better tolerated than itraconazole. For superficial white onychomycosis, systemic rather than topical antifungal therapy is advised.
There are several doctors who can provide nail fungus treatment. Your primary care provider, a dermatologist, or a podiatrist can treat nail fungus. Any one of these doctors can provide proper diagnosis and prescribe medications specific to fungal infection. A podiatrist or dermatologist may shave the top layer of the nail off or even remove part of the nail.
Ultra-high heels force the feet into a position that puts stress on the ball of the foot. At this critical joint, the long metatarsal bones meet the pea-shaped sesamoid bones, and the toe bones (phalanges). Too much pressure can inflame these bones or the nerves that surround them. Chronic stress to the foot bones can even lead to hairline fractures.
Recognize the signs. Before you can treat toenail fungus, you need to know what to look for. Nail fungus does not necessarily have consistent symptoms. The most common sign that you have nail fungus is tenderness or pain in the nail. Signs of a fungal infection include changes in your nail, such as color changes. The nail will usually get yellow or white streaks on the side of the nail. There is usually due to a buildup of debris under or around the nail, a crumbling and thickening of the outside edges of the nail, a loosening or lifting up of the nail, and nail brittleness.
The possible side effects of itraconazole include headaches, dizziness, stomach and bowel problems, and rashes. Itraconazole can also interact with a number of other drugs. These include cholesterol-reducing and blood-sugar-lowering medications, as well as certain sleeping pills. It is therefore important to let your doctor know about any medication you take. Itraconazole is not an option for people with heart failure (cardiac insufficiency). It also isn’t suitable for women who are pregnant or breastfeeding.
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.