Toenail fungus, also known as ‘onychomycosis’ is a condition that results from fungus, mold, or bacteria infecting the nail bed between your toe (or finger) nails and the skin underneath. The method of infection is very similar to that of athlete’s foot—it can begin with a single exposure to one of the many microorganisms that can live in your nail bed (found in locker rooms, pools, showers, footwear—places warm and moist) coupled with a persistent warm, moist environment around the infected nails.
Toenail fungus is most commonly found in toenails because moist shoes serve as good incubators, whereas fingernails are exposed to the open air and are dry most of the time. Toenail fungus can spread from one toe to another or to other body parts. Athletes and people who regularly give trauma to their toe by wear tight-fitting shoes or tight hosiery are at great risk of toenail fungus. Other reasons may be abnormal pH level of the skin, not drying off the feet thoroughly after bathing or exercise and decreased immunity.
Treatment of Toe Fungus
For the most part, fungal nail infections aren’t usually dangerous, but they are pretty unsightly and can sometimes even be painful. If left untreated, they usually don’t go away on their own, so depending on your unique perspective (and/or lack of health insurance) you may opt for one of several effective treatments for toenail fungus. Regardless of the method you choose, it can take a very long time to cure this condition.
- Check out what treatment works best for you. Lamicil creams and tablets may work for some, but with every person it may differ. You can also try filing down the thicker parts of the nail, which is typically done by a specialist. Be sure to have a doctor diagnose that it is in fact toenail fungus before you begin treating it on your own.
Any treatment you choose will only stop new nail growth from becoming infected—so you’ll have to wait for the old, nasty nails to grow out completely before you’re cured, and that can take a while. Taking a multivitamin can help speed this up.
- Look to natural cures. If you have a milder case of toenail fungus, try using tea tree oil or Leucatin. With natural cures to get rid of toenail fungus, the key is to continue using the medication even after the problem has seemed to clear up.
- Vick’s VapoRub helps. You can also coat the infected toes with it at least twice daily and right before bed. Wash your hands after every treatment. Depriving the fungus of oxygen using this method may stop the spread of the infection into new nail as it grows. Only use this method on a thoroughly dried toenail to avoid “sealing in” water that promotes fungus—either that, or you can keep nail polish on them, especially at the “quick,” where new nail is forming.
- A foot soak is a particularly inexpensive home remedy. Just do the following: In a small tub or bowl just large enough to submerge the infected nails completely, mix equal parts Listerine mouthwash with white vinegar. Soak the infected nails in this bath for at least 15 minutes, twice daily. You can reuse the same liquid for up to a week before replacing with a fresh mixture.
- Use sulfur powder. This is available in most drug stores as a non-prescription item, but you can also look for it in the gardening department. You can mix this with an over-the-counter fungus powder for maximum fungicide results.
- Use orange oil. Another tested method is 5% to 10% pure orange oil available in garden and farm centers (not orange oil cleaner) in a 50-50 mixture of vinegar and rubbing alcohol. Apply daily between toes, on and under toenails. You can obtain a medicine dropper at a drugstore or Walmart.
- Use tea tree or oregano oil. As an alternative, you could use a few drops of tea tree oil or oregano oil. Both can be bought in vitamin/health food stores. Walmart and other grocery stores also carry tea tree oil.
- As your nails grow, keep them well groomed. Use nail clippers to cut them short and a file to rough the surface up. Store your grooming tools in a container filled with the same liquid you use for the daily soaks. Wash your hands after every treatment.
- Consult your doctor. If home remedies are not working, your physician can give you a prescription for an oral medication that will kill the fungus. Professional help may be the best way to get rid of toenail fungus at its worst, especially if the fungus has been left for a longer period of time and has worsened due to lack of care. A doctor should be able to prescribe you with oral antifungal medications like Itraconazole (Sporanox), Fluconazole (Diflucan) and Terbinafine (Lamisil). Typically, you take the pills daily for a week out of each month for at least six months.Because the fungus is living between your nail and the skin underneath, it’s not very accessible for a direct attack, so taking one of these drugs will help your body eliminate fungi-friendly conditions in new nail growth. These medications should be combined with proper prevention that will be addressed on the prevention portion of this article.Be warned, though—there are dangers in using this kind of oral antifungal product, which include side effects of possible liver damage and even death. As such, you should always carefully read the directions of all products used.
Prevention of Toe Fungus
- Prevent the fungus before it starts. If you have the need to get rid of toenail fungus often, try the prevention part of the cure after the next session of treatments. By avoiding tight socks, using foot powder, covering your feet at the gym and swimming areas and drying your feet thoroughly when they are wet, you can help stave off the fungus and keep it from coming back.
- Fungus is a growing, living thing. Changing the environment that it lives in will stop its growth. Wearing a different type of shoe may help, such as sandals to let feet breathe. Sunning the feet can also help, but be careful not to sunburn them.
- Toenails grow slowly. It may take 6 months or more for healthy nail to replace diseased tissue. Be patient and consistent with your remedy in order to see results.
- Try to keep your feet dry as much as possible. Also, clean the inside of all your shoes with vinegar. Sit them in the hot sun to dry. If your feet are red, you may have a mixed fungus and yeast infection. The vinegar will kill the yeast infection, but avoiding eating yeast and sugary foods will also help in this case.
- Thoroughly wash and dry your hands and feet after bathing. This includes the areas between your toes. In addition, when you wash your nails, scrub them with a soft-bristled brush to remove dirt and dead skin.
- Trim your nails and keep them short. Clean any dirt out from underneath your finger and toenails with a toothpick.
- Wear only shoes and socks that allow your feet to breathe. Change your socks during the day if they routinely become moist.
- Use antifungal powder. Regularly apply antifungal powder to your feet and footwear.
- Don’t go barefoot. Going barefoot in public locker rooms or sharing footwear with others will makes sure you get infected with toe fungus.
- Refrain from wearing fake nails. They’ll only exacerbate a current fungal infection or cause a new one to form.
In any case, always keep in mind that fungus is curable. It may require medical treatment but there many tips, tricks and methods you can do to stop fungus without medical bills. Even if a trip to the hospital may be your only option, the prognosis for toe fungus is usually positive.
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