When fungus gets into the system, the signs are barely noticeable. A small discolored spot may appear after a few days. But in a couple of weeks, the toenail thickens, and pieces will break off. Nevertheless, the symptoms are ignored, and the infection will spread to other nails. Here’s everything you need to know about onychomycosis and how to fight it with the best toenail fungus treatment.
Table of contents
- Nail anatomy
- Onychomycosis – introduction
- Common symptoms
- Nail infection causes
- How to diagnose
- Prescribed drugs
- Local treatment
- Nail fungus medicine price overview
- Athlete’s foot
- Over-the-counter DIY treatment
- Natural ingredients recommendations
- Homemade treatment
- Toenails vs. fingernails
- Onychomycosis complications
- Are you at risk?
- Conditions with similar symptoms
- Living with nail fungus
- Preventing future re-occurences
To better understand this condition that affects the nails, you should find out more about this tissue. The human nail is actually a plate of keratin (protein) that covers the tops of fingers and toes. Do you know what the purpose of the nails is? They protect the toes and fingers. Plus, they help us perform various physical activities that are required in our everyday life.
Although we clip – and sometimes bite – them regularly, they keep growing. The nail of the index finger will grow faster than of the little finger. An interesting fact is that during childhood, a nail will grow out completely in 3 months. During adulthood, it will it take up to 6 months to reach the same size. However, the average growth rate is 3 mm a month. And, contrary to what many people believe, the fingernails and toenails do not continue to grow after death. What does really happen? The skin tightens due to dehydration and reveals more of the unguis tissue.
Evidence shows that nails include in their composition approximately 7-12% water. It may sound incredible, but they are even more permeable than the skin. Knowing this, the scientists have formulated numerous toenail fungus treatments that will penetrate the nail and eliminate the cause of the infection.
As for the parts of the nail, it includes the matrix, bed, plate, folds (distal, lateral, proximal), lunula and cuticle. If the matrix represents the source of the cells that turn up in the keratinized layers of the plate, the bed is located under this nail plate. When a fingernail grows, it pushes out the plate and replaces it with new keratin cells. Where? At the proximal part of the plate, near the matrix.
The bed is actually a continuation of the skin near the nail. It has dermal capillaries, so its light pink color is given by the blood flowing and nourishing these tissues. The plate – the largest part of the nail – contains dead keratin cells that are displayed as laminated layers. The nail root, or the proximal edge of the plate, emanates from the nail sinus, then extends across the toes and fingers until it protrudes from the tip.
The lunula is the pale crescent-shaped located at the base of the plate. Do you know what is the role played by cuticles? They support the plate and seal the nail sinus. This way, the matrix will not be injured or infected. When microorganisms develop into a fungal infection, the size and shape of many parts of the nail will be affected.
Introduction to onychomycosis
It is the medical term for the fungal infection of the nail. Statistics show that the toenails are attacked by this condition more frequently than the unguis tissue from the fingers. The reason why? Toenails often stay in a dark and humid environment, where fungi actually thrive. So, onychomycosis will start at the edge of the toenail, and gradually affect the other parts of this tissue.
Why is it contagious? Well, the doctors have answered to this question. It seems that poor hygiene is to blame. Plus, those who have one nail with fungus will likely use the same clippers, scissors, or file on all nails. The condition will quickly spread to other nails and other people, as well.
We must be honest. When they deal with onychomycosis, a significant percentage of patients will not request the assistance of a professional. However, some of them may use over-the-counters. Even so, the statistics should set off alarm bells: the prevalence of onychomycosis is 20% in East Asia, 23% in Europe, and 18% across North America. When people get old, these numbers change: more than 20% of adults aged 60 or more will develop nail fungal infections.
In some cases, the condition is mild and does not cause discomfort. Therefore, the patient will believe that they may not need a particular treatment. But the infection can worsen, especially if those affected do not pay much attention to their nails. If in the beginning, the illness manifests as a yellow or white spot under the tip of the finger or toe, after a few weeks little crumbs will fall at the edge. Then, onychomycosis will worsen and probably attack other nails, too.
Common symptoms of fungal infection
How do you know that it’s really onychomycosis? Here is a list of the most common symptoms of the nail fungal infection.
- Thickening – Apart from changing its size and shape, the nail can also begin to lift up. Debris will build under the plate until it will be no longer attached firmly to the toe or finger.
- Brittleness – The plate breaks easily, while the surface seems to be dry, soft, and powdery. When the condition worsens, the nail will split or crumble.
- Discoloration – Some part of the nail will become brown, yellow, white, or another color. If you leave it untreated, it will grow bigger, and probably spread to other nails, too.
- Pain – Walking and even standing can be painful when the toenails have onychomycosis. Moreover, the area may swell, increasing the discomfort.
- Odor – Some patients detect a foul smell coming from their yellowish nails. It actually smells like cheese because the same bacteria that affects the unguis tissue is used in the production of several kinds of cheese (of course, the bacteria for food is cultivated in laboratories).
Those who request the assistance of a dermatologist usually have one or two symptoms. However, when the condition gets worse, it can damage the size, shape, and texture of the unguis tissue. The area affected will lose its natural luster. The plate will look dull, and those affected will do anything to hide their problem.
What causes a fungal nail infection?
Walking barefoot in public spaces or excessive manicure will increase the risk for onychomycosis. However, the condition appears when a type of fungi will attack the nail, its bed, or the skin surrounding it. A tiny cut in your skin represents a door where the harmful microorganism will enter in your system.
The infection may be triggered by three types of fungus, alone or in combination. Are your nails yellow and fragile? Blame dermatophytes, yeasts, and molds.
- Dermatophytes – are culpable for more than 90% of all superficial fungal infections. Epidermophyton, Trichophyton, and Microsporum are the dermatophytes that may have entered your body and caused onychomycosis. T. rubrum will provoke more than 70% of these cases. They are the root of the problem in athlete’s foot, which frequently spreads and attacks the toenails. Needless to say, these microorganisms are highly contagious.
- Yeasts – cause almost 8% of all total nail fungal infections. Candida albicans and Malassezia furfur are the most common yeasts that trigger onychomycosis. They are normally present on our skin and nails, but totally harmless when the individual is healthy and has a powerful immunity. However, illness, use of antibiotics and many other diseases could allow the overgrowth of yeast, which will turn into an infection of one or several nails.
- Molds – often called non-dermatophyte molds – are to blame for 1-10% of infections. The predominant germ is Scopulariopsis brevicaulis. Its typical habitat is the soil, but it’s often located on human nails and skin. The only good news about molds is that they aren’t passed between people.
How to establish the right diagnosis
You can’t know for sure whether it’s onychomycosis. To get the best treatment, you need to request the assistance of your general practitioner. Maybe it’s another condition that has similar symptoms. Or perhaps your nails are fragile due to a chemical used for your household chores. Nevertheless, you should consult your doctor immediately.
First of all, prepare for your appointment. Make a short list with your symptoms, take note of all the medications or supplements you take, and give them some key personal information. If you recently had a major stress or you went through a divorce, your doctor will need to know. Why? Because a series of factors could contribute to your condition, and maybe your nails are brittle because of your lifestyle.
The dermatologist will then run several tests to determine the presence of the harmful microorganisms in your organism. Thus, a small piece of your nail or debris from under the nail may be removed and sent to the laboratory for analyses. Don’t be afraid to ask your doctor whatever questions you may have! The advice received here will assist you to overcome your condition and even accelerate the healing process.
Only after these results, your GP will recommend you the best toenail fungus treatment. Are your fingernails attacked, too? In this case, you will have to use both systemic and topical treatment. The systemic therapy is taken orally, to target the cause of the problem, and kill the fungus. On the other hand, the topical medication will be applied locally, to treat the ailment, stop its spreading, and speed up recovery.
Prescribed drugs for nail fungus
Depending on the severity of the symptoms, your doctor will prescribe you a systemic therapy, topical ointment, or both. The oral antifungal medications usually target both yeasts (Candida) and dermatophytes. Why do doctors prescribe it? In cases when the topical antifungal therapy is not effective, and the symptoms are severe or extensive.
Obviously, the choice of antifungal pills, duration of the treatment, and dose will be established depending on several factors:
- Are there co-existing diseases?
- What type of fungus causes onychomycosis?
- How many nails are affected?
- Will the treatment interact with other medications that you already take?
The most common medications for fungal infections contain azoles as the active ingredient. So, we have Itraconazole, Ketoconazole, and Fluconazole. Posaconazole and Voriconazole are recommended only for patients that are severely immunocompromised (HIV). The first 3 are included in various trade names that are available worldwide. Read further to learn essential information about them and how they work.
It’s effective against dermatophytes (tinea infections), systemic fungal infections (aspergillus, histoplasma, chromoblastomycosis, coccidioidomycosis), and yeasts (Candida and malassezia). This active ingredient works by binding to the fungal p450 enzyme and stopping the production of ergosterol in the cell, which is the primary compound of the cell wall.
Recommended daily dose: 200 mg daily for 6-8 weeks (when fingernails are attacked) or 3-4 months (for toenails). Another approach implies taking 200 mg twice daily for one week a month, and repeat the treatment for 2 months (fingernails) or 3-4 months (when toenails are infected).
Interactions with other drugs: Because it needs acid to be absorbed, it should not be used 2 hours before or after H2 antagonists (ranitidine, famotidine, cimetidine) and omeprazole. Additionally, this antifungal substance will increase the concentration of several drugs, including simvastatin, atorvastatin, antihistamines (astemizole, terfenadine), and midazolam.
Side effects: bleeding (when used with dabigatran or warfarin), nausea and vomiting (5% chances), dizziness, constipation, headache, skin rash, abnormal liver function tests, congestive heart failure.
Caution: Avoid it in pregnancy or when breastfeeding.
This imidazole drug works wonders against fingernail and toenail fungal infections caused by dermatophytes and yeasts. It works similarly to Itraconazole, by stopping the creation of fungal cell walls. Nizoral is the most common trade name, available in oral pills, 2% cream, and 2% shampoo.
Recommended daily dose: When used orally, take 200-400 mg/day, for 2-8 weeks. In worst case scenario, when the infection is severe, doctors prescribe it for up to one year. Remember that fatty meals or acidic juices will potentiate the effects of this oral medicine. On the other hand, the cream has to be applied daily, while the shampoo 2 times per week.
Interactions with other drugs: Avoid using it with simvastatin or the anticoagulants warfarin and dabigatran. It increases the concentrations of cisapride, methylprednisolone, midazolam, busulfan, astemizole, terfenadine, triazolam, gliclazide, glipizide, tolbutamide. On the contrary, these drugs reduce the concentration and potency of ketoconazole: carbamazepine, phenytoin, rifampicin, isoniazid.
Side effects: headaches, vomiting, constipation, nausea, dizziness, urticaria, adrenal insufficiency, enlarged breasts (in males).
Cautions: Avoid during pregnancy or when breastfeeding.
Fights off tinea infections (dermatophytes), yeasts like malassezia and candida, and several systemic infections (coccidioidomycosis and cryptococcosis). It functions similarly to itraconazole and ketoconazole.
Recommended daily dose: For onychomycosis, take 50 mg daily, 150 mg once a week, or 300-400 mg once a week, for 2-6 weeks. For coccidioidomycosis, take 200-400 mg daily, for 11-24 months.
Interactions with other drugs: Stop using simvastatin and reduce the dose of atorvastatin, as muscle pain and weakness are likely to occur. Fluconazole will increase the concentration of celecoxib, phenytoin, theophylline, cyclosporine, warfarin, and antidiabetic sulphonylurea drugs (glipizide, tolbutamide, gliclazide, and glibenclamide).
Side effects: hair loss, enlarged breasts (in male patients), erectile dysfunction, headaches, vomiting, nausea, flatulence, diarrhea, exfoliative dermatitis, skin rash, hepatitis.
Cautions: Avoid in pregnancy, when breastfeeding, or when taking oral contraceptive drugs.
We have included here a more natural / homeopathic approach. More on ZetaClear on se separate article, here.
What is the local treatment for toenail fungus?
As for the topical approach, dermatologists recommend solutions, creams, lotions, powders, lacquers, sprays, and gels. These products will be applied directly on the area affected. However, podiatrists remind us that the infection can easily spread to other nails, as well. It’s the reason why you should apply the medicine on all of the nails, not just on those who have symptoms.
Many of the antifungal creams and solutions will address both dermatophytes and yeasts. The active compounds included in their formula will target the root of the problem, and break the walls of the fungi cells. This way, the cause of the disease is eliminated, and the healing process will begin.
How should you use the topical drugs? Most of them are applied to the infected area for 2 times a day, 2-4 weeks or until the symptoms will disappear. Because of many factors, the fungal infection often reoccurs, demanding to repeat the treatment. For some patients, it’s a never-ending story.
The most common active ingredients included in the topical preparations that require a medical prescription are butenafine, clotrimazole, and naftifine. They usually cause side effects and interact with other drugs, as well, so your doctor will prescribe them only when they don’t have a safer choice. When it comes to topical products that do not need a prescription, consider the over the counter treatments with benzoic acid, undecylenic alkanolamide, terbinafine, miconazole, bifonazole, sulconazole, and tolnaftate.
The infections of the nail fold need preparations that contain both antifungal and antiseptic agents. Some examples are sulfacetamide 15% in spirit, econazole solution, thymol 3% in chloroform, and clotrimazole topical solution (Canesten). These solutions will cure the infection if you apply them 2-3 times daily for a few months.
When the nail plate is infected, and the germs can quickly spread to other toes and fingers, get an antifungal lacquer. Available preparations contain ciclopirox, tavaborole, amorolfine, morpholine, efinaconazole, and clotrimazole. These antifungals will treat distal onychomycosis and remove its symptoms. Clean your nails thoroughly and roughen it with an emery board before applying the medicinal nail polish. Make sure you don’t miss the area under the edge of the nail, either! The recommended use is 2-3 times a day, for 4-6 months, or until the symptoms will disappear completely.
What is the price of antifungal medicines?
Millions of dollars are spent annually on topical and oral prescriptions, laser treatments, home remedies, and over the counter products. If some of these options are more expensive than others, it does not mean that they are more efficient. When they have to use topical treatments for several months, most patients use them along with oral drugs. And it will cost them over $10,000 for a complete treatment.
Do you consider laser treatment for toenail fungus? Prepare to pay some more. A session will cost from $300 to $1,200. Your podiatrist will probably recommend you multiple sessions to eradicate it completely. Don’t forget about the consultation price! During the procedure, impulses of high power laser energy will pass through the nail in just 3-10 billionths of a second. It will not affect the nail, nor the skin surrounding it. But, since the disease does not threaten your life, and the laser treatment is considered a cosmetic procedure, your health insurance does not cover the costs.
On the other hand, the OTC fungus treatment is cheaper than the laser. One month supply can cost from a few dozens to several hundred dollars. You will have to pay $1,000-$4,000 for a complete treatment, depending on what OTC you will choose.
Needless to say, the homemade remedies are the most affordable option. You won’t have to pay more than a few hundred dollars. Plus, the natural ingredients have many other health benefits. The only disadvantage of this method is that you’ll have to be patient and diligent. But, as you already know, everything comes with a price. And if you really want to cure onychomycosis and athlete’s foot, you will succeed.
Facts about athlete’s foot
Contrary to popular belief, from this condition suffer athletes and nonathletes alike. Statistics show that almost 70% of the population will develop this ailment at some time. How do you recognize it? Athlete’s foot is a fungal skin condition caused by the fungus known as tinea pedis. It affects the soles of the feet, as well as the skin between the toes. The dermal tissue is red, scaly, itchy, and sometimes oozing and weepy.
Many people ignore it. The skin has changed its texture and color, but you can easily hide this problem by wearing closed shoes. What these guys don’t know is that it will easily spread to the other toes and even the nails. Then onychomycosis will appear, with symptoms that will not go away by themselves. Plus, the sufferers will experience discomfort when standing or walking. They will want to wear different footwear, but they cannot show their unaesthetic toenails.
It’s crazy when you think how easily you can get athlete’s foot. Just walk barefoot in public spaces (near swimming pool, locker rooms, public showers), and chances are you’ll get tinea pedis. Other ways to contaminate your skin imply wearing the same shoes for too long, keeping your feet in humidity, or sharing the personal items (nail clippers, files, scissors) with somebody who has it. The symptoms will appear gradually: raw skin on the feet, itchy blisters, burning between the toes, cracking and peeling skin, thick, crumbly and discolored toenails, until the nails will slowly pull away from their bed.
Now you know why it’s imperative to cure this skin condition. Because after that, treating toenail fungus will take a lot more time and effort. And you must consider the price of the treatment, too! After extensive tests and trying various medicines, you will heal both the skin and nails.
The treatment of athlete’s foot is prescribed by your doctor, after thorough investigation and correct diagnosis. You may have to take topical products – prescription-strength miconazole and clotrimazole, or oral drugs with antifungal effects – itraconazole (Sporanox), prescription-strength terbinafine (Lamilis), and fluconazole (Diflucan). When patients also deal with painful inflammation, they will address it with topical steroid medications.
What is ringworm?
Does a worm cause it? Well, the truth is that fungus, more specifically tinea corporis, causes this skin condition that we refer to as ringworm. There are no worms involved! Just like other types of fungal infections, this one spreads pretty quickly. Where will the symptoms appear? On any parts of the skin, scalp, or nails. If it attacks the skin between the toes, it’s athlete’s foot. But if it spreads to the groin, we call it jock itch.
When you have a red, itchy, and scaly patch or bump on your skin, you can bet it’s ringworm. When it develops, the skin will become flaky, and it will look like a ring. It will feel tender and sore, and patches of hair will fall off (when the scalp is affected). Unlike other fungal infections, you can get it from both people and pets. If your doggie has ringworm and you did not treat it properly, it will spread to you, as well.
Evidence shows that tinea corporis can get into your body from soil (if you work with it or stay barefoot on the ground) or when touching certain objects that are contaminated with fungus (clothes, brushes, combs, towels). Unfortunately, after affecting the soles of the feet, it can spread to toenails. Because many illnesses look like ringworm, you should consult your doctor and ask for adequate treatment. As you will soon notice, OTC antifungal lotions and creams will work just fine – some of the most popular choices are miconazole and clotrimazole.
Treating onychomycosis at home with OTCs
When they consider taking an over-the-counter toenail fungus treatment, patients don’t always make the best decision. It’s because they apply only a topical solution, which is not enough to kill the fungus and prevent its spreading. Moreover, the dermatologists warn us that, just like some bacterial infections are resistant to antibiotic drugs, fungi will no longer respond to the antifungal treatment that was actually designed to kill them.
Natural solutions are preferred in detriment of the chemical-based drugs. The lack or minimum side effects, affordability, and ease of use are the reasons why patients buy OTCs for toenail fungus. The truth is that many of these natural products are available online. Although you receive it home, without having to give any explanations, it comes with a disadvantage. You cannot know for sure if it’s efficient or safe. Moreover, you may waste your money on a copycat that will also put your health at risk. If you will buy your treatment without the advice of your doctor, make sure it’s made of natural compounds.
Best natural ingredients for toenail fungus
Our ancestors used the power of nature since ancient times. They noticed that some herbs could cure their health problems, so they made various concoctions and preparations. Now, with the development of science, we know how these medicinal plants work and why we should use them. The most common natural ingredients used as toenail fungus remedies are tea tree oil, corn meal, apple cider vinegar, olive leaf extract, lavender oil, orange oil, coconut oil, baking soda, garlic, clove oil, lemon juice, oregano oil, turmeric powder, and aloe vera, among others.
Tea tree oil
Is great when you need black toenail fungus treatment. Tea tree is actually one of the most powerful natural antifungal agents. It is used for acne, to soften cuticles, soothe sores, chicken pox, athlete’s foot, jock itch, yeast infections, and psoriasis, among many others. Apply one drop on each of your toenails and give t 15 minutes to penetrate the unguis tissue. After that, you can put on your socks/shoes. Repeat daily for 2 weeks and you will definitely improve the appearance of your black toenails.
Is surprisingly effective for fingernail and toenail fungus. Soak your hands/ feet in mush for about one hour. Repeat once a week for a month. How come it will work? Based on what the lab studies show, corn meal has antifungal properties. Whether your nails are black, white, or yellow, you should use it to combat onychomycosis at home.
Apple cider vinegar
“One apple a day, keeps the fungus away”, right? Apple cider vinegar creates an acidic environment where fungi cannot live long. However, it’s not affecting the nails, not even the skin surrounding it. Have a foot bath in one part warm water and one part vinegar. Soak for 30 minutes, once a day, and in a few weeks, you will have the first visible results, reducing symptoms considerably.
Olive leaf extract
This natural ingredient has been known for centuries for its antibacterial and antifungal effects. It is often included in the composition of OTC pills. Take it as a supplement according to the instructions, but make sure you will also use a topical toenail fungus treatment, in the same time, to accomplish maximum results.
Is an effective remedy for onychomycosis and other fungal infections. To kill the fungus and improve the nail appearance, you have to apply a few drops of this oil on your nails before bedtime. Let it overnight and repeat this process for 2 weeks or until the signs of infection will go away. Do not worry about stains on your bed sheets – they get off easily, usually after a regular cloth washer circle, using just a bit of liquid detergent. Smell might survive for a few more days, but that is not supposed to bother, right?
Ought to be used daily as a treatment for toenail fungus. You have athlete’s foot? Orange oil will help you get rid of it. Use a dropper to pour a few drops on the toenails and skin between the toes. If your skin is too sensitive, mix one part orange oil and one part olive oil before applying it on the areas affected. Let it for 60 minutes to penetrate the tissues. Use this homemade remedy until you banish onychomycosis, and your nails are strong again.
Contains caprylic acid, which is a powerful antifungal element. It works by penetrating the fungus cell and destroying its wall. As a consequence, fungi will be eliminated, and the symptoms of the infection will quickly disappear. Apply a thin layer on the areas affected, as well as the healthy tissues surrounding it. If you want fast results, combine coconut oil with tea tree oil. Use this preparation daily for several weeks in a row.
Your home treatment for the fungal infection of the nail
Is an amazing white toenail fungus treatment, although not many people know about it. You have it in your home, better it never crossed your mind that it can restore the health and beauty of your toenails. How should you use it? Mix one part baking soda with one part borax powder, add some water and obtain a paste. Rub it carefully onto the nails affected 2 times/ day. In 2 weeks, your nails will shine healthily again.
The use of this bulbous plant dates back thousands of years. We enjoy it in food, but its healing properties are truly incredible. It reduces the blood pressure, improves the immune response, reduces oxidation of cells, nourishes the body (it contains vitamins, minerals, fiber), lowers the cholesterol levels, prevents the degeneration of nerves, and has antibiotic, antifungal, antiviral effects. Long story short, garlic will help you live longer. When you want to combat white toenail fungus naturally, crush or chop a garlic clove and rub it onto your nails. Wait for 10-15 minutes before washing it off, and repeat once daily for a few weeks.
Contains eugenol, which is an essential oil with antifungal and antibacterial properties. Best OTCs for onychomycosis include this compound. Mix 4-8 drops clove oil with 2 tablespoons olive oil and apply it on your toenails and fingernails using a cotton ball. The recommended dose is 2-3times/day for at least 2 weeks.
Squeeze a lemon, and you’ll obtain enough juice to use on all of your fingernails and toenails. Why is it useful against onychomycosis? The citric acid contained will destroy fungus and stop its spreading. In a few days, your nails will be shiny, white, and beautiful again. Apply it regularly, until your nails are no longer affected by infection.
You’ll find it in both traditional and online stores. The oil obtained from this herb is a great antifungal agent. Pour one drop on each of your nails and rub it gently until it softens the unguis tissue. Use this natural oil daily until you remove any signs of disease.
Is widely used in Ayurvedic medicine. It’s more expensive than other natural remedies, but it’s definitely worth it. Studies proved that turmeric has anti-inflammatory, antibiotic, antifungal, antioxidant, and antiviral effects. Plus, it protects the cardiovascular and nervous systems. Do you want to use it as a treatment for toenail fungus? Then make a thick paste with a little water, and apply it on the nail for approximately 2 hours. After that, rinse and dry the toes. If you apply this remedy for 2 times a day, you will eliminate onychomycosis in less than one month.
Is a miraculous plant that will help you to say goodbye to toenail fungus. It has numerous health benefits and can be used both internally and externally. How can it enhance your overall health? Aloe heals wounds, restores the youth of skin, stimulates weight loss, cures psoriasis, prevents skin cancer, treats inflammatory bowel disease, and helps lower the blood glucose levels. Why do we like it? Aloe has antibacterial, antiviral and antifungal properties. As for treating black toenail fungus, you may use both the juice and gel with aloe extract. Massage the toes and nails with it for a few times a day. In 1-2 months, you’ll forget about onychomycosis and athlete’s foot.
Toenails VS. fingernails
It’s not hard to cure onychomycosis with homemade remedies. You can combine some of them to enhance the potency of the ingredients. Plus, these ways to cure the condition are affordable, especially when you think that many of them are available in your kitchen or fridge. However, many people find it easier to buy an over-the-counter toenail fungus treatment and just apply it according to the recommendations.
When the fingernails are attacked, the duration of the treatment is several months. But when the tips of the toes are thickened and yellow, the disease will hardly go away – even when prescribed drugs are implied. You may wonder now: what’s the difference between toenails and fingernails? Why is it so difficult to restore the health and beauty of toenails?
First of all, toenails don’t grow as fast as the nails of the fingers. Furthermore, they stay more time in a dark, warm, and humid environment (socks, footwear). They are thicker than the fingernails, and it will take more effort for the antifungal agents to penetrate the tissues. Though we use the tips of our fingers as tools (and we shouldn’t!), toenails are more frequently affected by fungus. Poor hygiene and diminished immune system are strongly related to onychomycosis, based on what experts explain.
When an individual scratches the skin affected by ringworm, it can spread the disease to the fingernails. But when they deal with athlete’s foot, this condition can pass to the nails of the toes. Keeping your nails in open air and washing them more often will certainly lower the risk of fungal infection. All in all, adequate treatment is required, because one nail affected can infect all of the other nails, be it from hands or feet.
Complications of toenail fungus
Have you heard of somebody losing their toenail? You may ignore the first signs of toenail infection, but you shouldn’t. When fungi spread, debris will gather between the nail. It will push it upwards until the nail eventually falls. In some cases, this procedure is performed by a doctor when the fungal nail infection is too severe of keeps coming back, despite the antifungal treatment.
The surgical nail removal – avulsion – is only one complication of this health problem. Other dangers of ignoring toenail fungal infections include athlete’s foot, the spread of the disease, and a widespread infection. The skin surrounding the toenails will be contaminated, and if the dermal tissue is cracked, bacteria will get in. The skin will become red, swollen, and tender – cellulitis – and treatment with antibiotics is mandatory. If you are prone to develop onychomycosis, make sure you take good care of your nails.
Are you at risk for fungal nail infections?
Is toenail fungus genetic? It’s a question that many patients ask their general practitioner. And yes, if you have a family history of onychomycosis, you may develop this illness, too. The truth is that you could also contaminate your nails when doing everyday actions, such as hitting the gym, swimming in a public pool, or having manicure downtown. You read that right! The fungus spreads very quickly, and chances are you got it from somebody else. Other risk factors are age (the prevalence is higher in older people), reduced immunity, wearing socks and shoes that hinder ventilation, and having circulatory problems, psoriasis, or diabetes.
Nail fungus and diabetes? How can they be related? Statistics show that onychomycosis is twice as common in patients who have diabetes. Their chronic condition often triggers what we refer to as diabetic nerve damage. The symptoms will appear faster than in healthy individuals. The toenails will become unattractive, thickened, and yellow. Because they also deal with reduced blood circulation, healing will take a lot more time than usually. What is worse is that the complications are more severe. So you should take immediate action whenever toenails change their shape, texture, or color.
Here is a nice infographic displaying the main factors iof risk.
Conditions that can be mistaken for onychomycosis
Unfortunately, several other diseases look like the fungal infection of the nail. Psoriasis, melanoma, hematoma and onycholysis are some of them. If psoriasis causes pitting and a darker tone to nail, melanoma manifests as a black spot under the plate. When the nails are black or red, maybe it’s from an injury, and fungus has nothing to do with it. It’s just hematoma.
If the plate looks green, consult the dermatologist as soon as possible. Why? It could be an infection with Pseudomonas bacteria. It grows under the plate and lifts it from the bed. You may even lose the nail if you leave it untreated!
Lines and ridges are often considered normal, since they are so common. However, they will become more prominent during pregnancy. And in case you have a large groove down the center of the plate, it could be from biting your nails. Needless to say, you ought to stop doing that.
Do you know what onycholysis is? It’s the loosening of the nail, mostly caused by trauma. The plate will turn yellowish or whitish, and may eventually fall off. Although this condition is not painful, the symptoms are not aesthetically pleasant. In rare cases, iron deficiency or an overactive thyroid gland may be to blame.
When the soft tissue that surrounds nails is red and swollen, it may be due to paronychia. The cuticle gets infected after injury, bacteria, excessive manicuring, or other possible causes. What you must do is keep the skin dry, avoid any trauma, and ask for the professional assistance of a podiatrist.
Living with nail fungus
The millions of dollars spent each year on antifungal treatments reflect people’s desire to eliminate onychomycosis. It’s a hard battle, and not all patients will succeed to remove it completely. So, when the nails are yellow, black, cracked, and crumbly, the sufferers will try to avoid displaying them. It’s not uncommon for some to experience trust issues. Anxiety, depression, and reduced self-esteem are a normal psychological response.
Despite all these, you should not give up. There are plenty of ways to stop onychomycosis right in its tracks! If the OTC toenail fungus treatment does not work, discuss with your doctor. Then, the dermatologist will prescribe you chemical-based pills and creams that will certainly give positive results. Are you worried due to the side effects implied? Be diligent and use daily one or two homemade remedies. The white toenail fungus will slowly disappear, leaving your nails smooth, lustrous, and strong.
How to prevent the re-occurrence of onychomycosis
These healthy habits will help you to keep your nails beautiful and free from fungus. Whether you are prone to onychomycosis or you want to prevent the appearance of the disease after curing it, consider the next recommendations:
- Keep your hands and feet dry. When the nails and skin are dry, you reduce the chances to develop an infection. Change your socks and footwear often when the temperature is hot, and avoid keeping your hands in water more than is necessary.
- Before bedtime, wash and dry your hands and feet. Apply some homemade remedies or an antifungal OTC to reduce the signs of onychomycosis, if you have any.
- Don’t walk barefoot in public spaces. Wear shower shoes or sandals when you use a public shower or pool, it will help you to avoid getting a fungal infection.
- Do not share towels, socks, or footwear with other people.
- Don’t use your fingernails as tools. You may hurt yourself, and an injury will open the door to bacteria.
- Trim your nails regularly. Don’t cut them too short, and avoid manicuring in shady salons where they don’t use sterile instruments.
- Disinfect your nail clippers, scissors, and files before and after using them. Don’t share them with other people, as you may get onychomycosis.
- Choose breathable footwear and alternate shoes. Make sure that they are properly ventilated, to prevent the development of fungi.
- Sprinkle your shoes. Use antifungal powders or sprays inside the socks and shoes, and you will manage to keep toenail fungus at bay.
The best toenail fungus treatments will get to the root of the problem and eliminate the unpleasant symptoms. Unfortunately, the results are not permanent. You may heal it, but it does not mean that you will become immune to the disease. Take good care of your nails, and treat onychomycosis from the appearance of the first symptoms. Request the advice of your doctor, and make sure your nails will become strong, beautiful, and healthy again!