Toenail fungus is actually a somewhat common problem in which a fungus or bacteria attracted to dark, damp environments takes up residence under and around your toenails, where it thrives, protected by the nail itself and feeding off the warmth and moisture in your socks and shoes. Onychomycosis means fungal infection of the nail. It’s the most common disease of the nails and constitutes about a half of all nail abnormalities. This condition may affect toenails or fingernails, but toenail infections are particularly common. The prevalence of onychomycosis is about 6-8% in the adult population. Onychomycosis caused by dermatophytes is also known as tinea unguium (tinea of the nails).
This infestation of your feet with toenail fungus (known to medical professionals as onychomycosis), can result in discoloration of the toenail (brown, yellow, white and so on), swelling of the toe, thickening and crumbling of the nail, streaks or spots on the nail and even complete loss of the nail. Nail fungus can also affect fingernails, but thrives more often and is harder to treat on toenails (usually the big or little toe) because toenails are more exposed to ideal environments for catching and maintaining the fungus and grows more slowly.
Causes of Toenail Fungus
- Contamination from public pools, locker rooms, shared bathrooms and shower stalls or from family member to family member.
- Stress on the foot from tight-fitting athletic socks and shoes.
- Any footwear or hygiene practice that doesn’t allow feet to stay dry.
- Abnormal PH levels of the skin.
- A compromised immune system (that is, through HIV or diabetes).
Treatment of Toenail Fungus
It seems that everyone has a piece of sage advice to offer about how to get rid of toenail fungus. Some advice is very simple—apply Vicks VapoRub, Listerine, or any one of a dozen other substances. Other remedies take more effort, like soaking the affected toenails in a solution of dilute bleach, hydrogen peroxide, vinegar or some other chemical for a period of time each day.
Then there are the doctor-recommended medications—topical ointments, nail lacquer or oral drugs. These treatments are easy, and may have stronger scientific backing, but they are by far the most expensive. So you’ll just have to choose for yourself which treatment is both affordable and effective for you. As such, here are some specific entries regarding effective toenail fungus treatment:
- See a podiatrist immediately to get rid of toenail fungus. Before you begin treating an infection yourself, see a foot doctor for a diagnosis and access to professional treatment. A foot doctor can get rid of toenail fungus by prescribing an oral antifungal medication (this treatment usually lasts 12 weeks), filing and trimming the infected nail, as well as providing prescription-strength topical medication.
- Medicated nail polish can get rid of toenail fungus. Applying nail polish to an infected nail is generally not a good idea, as the polish can seal in the fungus and make it harder to reach with treatment. However, there are medicated nail polishes used specifically to treat toenail fungus, effectively sealing in the fungus with the medication. A podiatrist can prescribe such a polish, to be applied twice a week, to get rid of a milder toenail fungus.
- Cut and file down the infected nail to get rid of toenail fungus. Regularly trimming and filing the infected nail reduces the amount of infection and can help eliminate the spreading of infection. A process called debriding (usually done by a podiatrist) involves filing down any part of the nail thickened by infection. Because, if treated properly, the infection should grow out with the nail, this maintenance will help you to get rid of your toenail fungus faster, and reduce the nasty appearance of the infection.
- Topical creams and ointments can help you get rid of your toenail fungus. There are a plethora of products out there claiming to get rid of toenail fungus, so do your research before you sink twenty bucks into a bottle of “llama sweat” for your toes. As mentioned, Vick’s VapoRub is a popular and fairly successful treatment for toenail fungus.
- Practice preventative measures to get rid of your toenail fungus. The last thing you want your toenail fungus to do is get worse, so cover your feet in public places like gyms and pools, avoid shared showers and dry your feet well. Avoid wearing tight socks or shoes that don’t let your feet breath, look for moisture-wicking fabric to put near your feet and consider using a foot powder to keep your feet dry or less sweaty.
- Tea tree oil has been used as an effective remedy for toenail fungus. The natural oil found in the tea tree has anti-fungal properties. Purchase a bottle, place a few drops on the affected area each day and rub it in. You can combine this oil with others like almond, olive and lavender.
- A healthy diet can help prevent toenail fungus. A very healthy diet may not seem like a cure for nail fungus, but it certainly is a good way to start at never getting nail fungus in the first place. Sure, you can easily argue it being a home remedy of sorts, but it’s a well-known fact that individuals who have weak immune systems will run the risk of getting infected much more than others and you can fortify your body’s defenses by eating the right kinds of food. Supplement a nutritious diet with exercise to improve your blood circulation.
- If symptoms persist, consult a foot doctor. Sometimes toenail fungus just won’t respond to treatment, and in some cases will temporarily respond, only to return days, weeks or months later. If your toenail fungus is persistent and painful, you may want to talk to your foot doctor about surgical removal of the nail—the only guaranteed permanent solution to toenail fungus. The offending nail will be removed and over time will be naturally replaced with a thick layer of skin.
Prevention of Toenail Fungus
- Wear protective foot covering (your own—don’t share) in public showers, pools, gyms and so forth.
- Wash and thoroughly dry your feet on a regular basis.
- Keep toenails trim and clean (polish can seal in fungus).
- Use only disinfected tools for pedicures and nail care.
Nail fungus can make your toenails look pretty gross and although gross nails will not kill, you they can make you very self-conscious such that your overall appearance may suffer and your social life could be ruined. As such, constant vigilance and prudence is your best bet in getting rid of or altogether avoiding this unsightly malady.
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