Toenail fungus is one of the most common infections that can afflict toenails. It is so prevalent that abnormally-looking toenails are almost always assumed as caused by a fungal infection. Also known as onychomycosis, toenail fungus can be obtained in one place, but it is not highly contagious.
Causes of Toenail Fungus
Toenail fungus is caused by fungi, the most common of which is Trichophytonrubrum. This is a type of fungus that infects the skin and spreads to the toenails. Athlete’s foot, a skin condition caused by fungal infection can lead to toenail fungus if left uncontrolled. This is blamed to the constant sweating of feet, added with the trauma to toenails when wearing tight-fitting shoes.
Toenail fungus is usually caught in moist places such as communal showers in swimming pools and gym. People with a compromised immune system are susceptible to this condition. These people usually suffer with cancer, diabetes and AIDS, or taking immunosuppressive medications.
Symptoms of Toenail Fungus
Toenail fungus can cause bad-looking nails that are a source of embarrassment to infected people. Toenails will become:
- Abnormally thick and distorted
- Brittle and ragged at the edges
- Dull or discoloured (yellowish or grayish)
In some cases, nail may be raised or separated from the nail bed, cause pain and release a slightly foul odor.
Toenail Fungus Treatment
Toenail fungus is very treatable, with many treatment options available. A doctor, usually a dermatologist or podiatrist, will suggest any of the following methods to correct toenail fungus:
- Cream Medications
These conventional medications are topically applied to the affected toenail. Some creams are found to be effective, but may take about 48 weeks for healthy nails to start growing normally again. These medications include efinaconazole and tavaborole, which should be applied daily. A medicated nail polish that contains 8% ciclopirox has also been approved as a medication for toenail fungus. However, due to the slow speed of result of these topical applications, most people do not find them favorable.
- Oral Medications
Oral therapy is another common method of correcting toenail fungus. It generally has a 50% success rate, and usually takes 9 to 12 months for a healthy nail to grow. Doctors noted, though, that there is a 30 to 50% chance of toenail fungus recurrence.
Some of these oral medications are the following:
This is one of the longest available medication for toenail fungus. It is considered safe for use, but has a very low effective rating.
This is taken one week per month for two to three months. It has shown effectiveness, but is reported to interact with certain drugs including asthma medications and antibiotics (erythromycin).
Doctors require that this medication be taken daily for 12 weeks. It is effective and safe as only few side effects are reported by users. However, this medication is not recommended if you have a liver problem as it may cause the condition to worsen.
This medication is taken once a week for several months. The exact number of months will depend on the doctor’s evaluation on the degree of fungal infection. The doctor may adjust the dosage if you have a kidney problem or taking certain medications. This medication is used with caution if you have a liver disease.
Oral medications are known to cause liver problems in people who have healthy livers, especially if taken in long term. Due to this, doctors require blood tests prior to medication. Also, in longer courses, you may need to have your liver function tested before treatment begins and retested during the course of treatment.
Most of these medications are generally more expensive than topical products, with health insurance companies hesitate paying for these treatments as they consider toenail fungus as a “cosmetic problem”. But certain medications such as fluconazole and terbinafine are now considered as generic drugs and are more affordable.
- Laser or Photodynamic Therapy
This is an innovative approach in toenail fungus treatment. Since topical creams may be effective but take long to get results, and oral medications carry some side effects, laser treatment is seen as a better option. This involves multiple laser exposures, 1 to 3 times over a 4 to 8-week period. However, this therapy is still on its testing stage, but results of tests are found to be very promising.
- Other New Treatments
Other innovative therapies that were developed include the use of electrical current to improve the absorption of topical medications into the nail. Another new method involves the use of a specially formulated nail polish that changes the micro-climate of the nails to prevent fungus to thrive there.
Alternative ways of correcting nail disorders includes the use of natural creams or serums and home remedies.
All-natural Topical Creams or Serums
These products contain natural ingredients such as herbs and essential oils. Certain antifungal herbs are found to be very effective in killing the fungus that causes the infection. Essential oils are known to promote healthy nails and repair damage. They are found to be very effective and safe as they are derived from natural sources. They are also less costly compared to topical and oral medications.
These natural products are applied to the affected nails and cuticles at least twice a day daily. Initial improvement can be noticed after 3 months; however, it will take 9 to 12 months for nail health to be totally restored.
- Home Remedies for Toenail Fungus
Some home remedies are also found to help improve the condition of the nails affected by the fungus.
- Apple Cider Vinegar
The mild acidity of this natural antifungal helps prevent toenail fungus to spread to other nails. Equal parts of the vinegar and water are mixed, and then applied to the nails, allowing it to soak for 30 minutes.
- White Vinegar
Another antifungal, white vinegar helps stop the infection and restores the skin’s natural pH. One part white vinegar is mixed in two parts warm water, and then applied to the affected nail. It is allowed to soak for 10 to 15 minutes before rinsing.
Proper Diagnosis for Toenail Fungus
If you see changes in the appearance of your toenails, do not readily assume that it is toenail fungus. Never self-diagnose. Instead, go visit a GP, podiatrist or dermatologist and have your toenails examined thoroughly. Only they can give the correct diagnosis and provide the proper toenail fungus treatment.