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The fungi (molds) that cause athlete's foot require warmth and moisture to survive and grow. There is an increased risk of infection with exposure to warm, moist environments (e.g., occlusive footwear—shoes or boots that enclose the feet) and in shared humid environments such as communal showers, shared pools, and treatment tubs.[17] Chlorine bleach is a disinfectant and common household cleaner that kills mold. Cleaning surfaces with a chlorine bleach solution prevents the disease from spreading from subsequent contact. Cleaning bathtubs, showers, bathroom floors, sinks, and counters with bleach helps prevent the spread of the disease, including reinfection.
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.[11]
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.
Dermatologists specialize in the treatment of skin disorders, including athlete's foot. You may find a board-certified dermatologist through http://www.aad.org. Additionally, family medicine physicians, internal medicine physicians, pediatricians, podiatrists (foot doctors), and other practitioners may also treat this common infection. Most primary care physicians can treat athlete's foot successfully.
*All medications have both common (generic) and brand names. The brand name is what a specific manufacturer calls the product (e.g., Tylenol®). The common name is the medical name for the medication (e.g., acetaminophen). A medication may have many brand names, but only one common name. This article lists medications by their common names. For information on a given medication, check our Drug Information database. For more information on brand names, speak with your doctor or pharmacist.
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.
A number of different types of fungus can cause onychomycosis including dermatophytes and Fusarium.[3] Risk factors include athlete's foot, other nail diseases, exposure to someone with the condition, peripheral vascular disease, and poor immune function.[3] The diagnosis is generally suspected based on the appearance and confirmed by laboratory testing.[2]
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.
For some people, a fungal infection of the nails can be difficult to cure and the first round of medication might not work. The nail infection can’t be considered cured until a new nail that’s free from infection has grown in. Although this indicates that the nail is no longer infected, it’s possible for the fungal infection to return. In severe cases, there may be permanent damage to your nail, and it may have to be removed.
Snake root extract comes from a plant in the sunflower family. A 2008 study conducted by the Centro de Investigación Biomédica del Sur and published in Planta Med, found that applying the extract to the affected nail over three months was more effective than treatment with the prescription anti-fungal Penlac (ciclopirox). Like natural remedies? Here are some more options.
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.
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.
Satchell, A. C., Saurajen, A., Bell, C., & Barnetson, R. StC. (2002, July 19). Treatment of interdigital tinea pedis with 25% and 50% tea tree oil solution: A randomized, placebo-controlled, blinded study [Abstract]. Australasian Journal of Dermatology, 43(3), 175–178. Retrieved from http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1046/j.1440-0960.2002.00590.x/full
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.
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.
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.

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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.
What triggers candida in the first place? This overgrowth of yeast can develop from a number of factors, including antibiotic use, poor digestion, low immune system function, a high sugar and grain diet, stress or hormonal changes. All these create an acidic environment that encourages yeast growth and the presence of candida. Many people opt for over-the-counter anti-fungal creams or even medications, but they only treat the symptoms, not the environment that allows candida to flourish.

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.
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.
Oral/combination therapy. Some studies have shown that taking antifungal pills and applying antifungals to your nails can be more effective than using either treatment alone. Oral medications can typically treat toenail fungus in three months. In stubborn cases, topical and oral medications may be combined to provide the best possible treatment. Oral medications must be prescribed by your physician or health care practitioner.

Research suggests that fungi are sensitive to heat, typically 40–60 °C (104–140 °F). The basis of laser treatment is to try to heat the nail bed to these temperatures in order to disrupt fungal growth.[37] As of 2013 research into laser treatment seems promising.[2] There is also ongoing development in photodynamic therapy, which uses laser or LED light to activate photosensitisers that eradicate fungi.[38]

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.
When the skin is injured damaged, the natural protective skin barrier is broken. Bacteria and yeasts can then invade the broken skin. Bacteria can cause a bad smell. Bacterial infection of the skin and resulting inflammation is known as cellulitis. This is especially likely to occur in individuals with diabetes, chronic leg swelling, who have had veins removed (such as for heart bypass surgery), or in the elderly. Bacterial skin infections also occur more frequently in patients with impaired immune systems.
An imbalance of healthy micro-flora in the body can also be a big cause of fungal overgrowth like onychomycosis. Be sure to partner a good probiotic supplement with your choice of toenail fungus remedy.  Thriving, healthy gut bacteria hinder the growth and spread of parasitic fungi and other microbes by limiting their available living space.  Also, lactobacillus bacteria found in most probiotic supplements actually secrete a biproduct that is poisonous to Candida.  Just make sure that your supplement contains no sugar or artificial fillers that may inadvertently feed the unwanted fungus.
Starts at the ends of the nails and raises the nail up: This is called "distal subungual onychomycosis." It is the most common type of fungal infection of the nails in both adults and children. It is more common in the toes than the fingers, and the great toe is usually the first one to be affected. Risk factors include older age, swimming, athlete's foot, psoriasis, diabetes, family members with the infection, or a suppressed immune system. It usually starts as a discolored area at a corner of the big toe and slowly spreads toward the cuticle. Eventually, the toenails will become thickened and flaky. Sometimes, you can also see signs of athlete's foot in between the toes or skin peeling on the sole of the foot. It is often accompanied by onycholysis. The most common cause is T. rubrum.
Elizabeth is an experienced freelance writer, specializing in health & wellness, education & learning, family life & parenting, and women's issues. She's been published on Huffington Post, and was a regular contributor to Love Live Health and Daily Home Remedy. Elizabeth is a retired primary school principal and education consultant, with a continuing passion for education and learning. She's familiar with writing newsletters, reports to stakeholders, financial reports, business plans and evaluation reports.
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.
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