Diagnosis is made based on clinical exam and can be confirmed by viewing scrapings of the nail under a microscope, or growing the fungus in a culture medium. This is not an easy condition to cure, so rather than trying home treatment with over-the-counter medications, it's best to see your doctor. As with many conditions, nail fungus infections are easier to treat if you catch them early.
Ringworm, also called tinea corporis, is not a worm, but a fungal infection of the skin. It can appear anywhere on the body and it looks like a circular, red, flat sore. It is often accompanied by scaly skin. The outer part of the sore can be raised while the skin in the middle appears normal. Ringworm can be unsightly, but it is usually not a serious condition.
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.
Modern medicine addresses toenail fungus with topical treatments, oral anti-fungal medicine, and in some cases surgical removal of the nail. Side effects of these medications may possibly include trouble breathing, swelling of the mouth or face, hives, rashes, blisters, headaches, dizziness, nausea, loss of appetite, liver damage, weight gain, fatigue, heart problems, fever, diarrhea, and more pain – all just to get rid of fungus on your toenails.
Toenail fungus, also know as onychomcosis, is characterized by inflammation, thickening, swelling, yellowing, and pain of the toenail and toe. Another symptom is crumbling of the toenail. It’s caused by an abnormal PH of the skin, which can happen because of poor hygiene, a bad immune system, exposure to high levels of moisture, and/or poor circulation. These toenail fungus treatments will prevent or get rid of the problem.
Garlic has antifungal properties useful to foot fungus treatment, thanks to its compounds such as allicin and ajoene. These natural compounds work to treat the toenail fungus. Mix crushed up garlic or garlic oil with white vinegar. Apply the mixture on and around the infected area and then cover it with a bandage. Leave the bandage on for a few hours. Repeat daily until the toenail fungus clears. Plus, learn about the other signs of disease your feet can reveal.
Occlusive shoe materials, such as vinyl, which cause the feet to remain moist, provide an excellent area for the fungus to proliferate. Likewise, absorbent socks like cotton that wick water away from your feet may help. Some individuals who sweat excessively benefit from the application of antiperspirants like 20% aluminum chloride (Drysol). Powders can help keep your feet dry. Although counterintuitive, if your feet can be soaked in a solution of aluminum acetate (Burow's solution or Domeboro solution) and then air dried with a fan, this can be very helpful if performed three or four times within 30 minutes. A home remedy of dilute white vinegar soaks, using one part vinegar and roughly four parts water, once or twice a day (as 10-minute foot soaks) may aid in treatment followed by evaporation can be helpful.
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.
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.
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.
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.
The American Orthopaedic Foot & Ankle Society (AOFAS) offers information on this site as an educational service. The content of FootCareMD, including text, images and graphics, is for informational purposes only. The content is not intended to substitute for professional medical advice, diagnoses or treatments. If you need medical advice, use the "Find an Orthopaedic Foot & Ankle Surgeon" tool at the top of this page or contact your primary doctor.
If the diagnosis is uncertain, direct microscopy of a potassium hydroxide preparation of a skin scraping (known as a KOH test) can confirm the diagnosis of athlete's foot and help rule out other possible causes, such as candidiasis, pitted keratolysis, erythrasma, contact dermatitis, eczema, or psoriasis. Dermatophytes known to cause athlete's foot will demonstrate multiple septate branching hyphae on microscopy.
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.
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.
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.