A fungal infection of the toenails, or onychomycosis, can be unpleasant and embarrassing. In fact, if not treated, it can cause serious discomfort and, ultimately, pain. If you suffer from this problem, you need to know the different options for toenail fungus treatment.
How do you Recognize it?
Although nail fungus eventually becomes painful, in its early stages you may ignore or fail to recognize it. Signs that you have the condition include:
• Discoloration of nails: Either yellow, or turning dark in color, starting at a corner of the nail and spreading toward the cuticle.
• Thickening of the toenails
• Toenails looking flaky or crumbly
• Nails distorted in shape
• Eventually, the nail separates from the nail bed
• Occasionally, an unpleasant odor
Toenail Fungus Treatment at Home
If the symptoms are mild, you can try a daily routine of cleansing over a period of months. You can also file off any white markings that appear on the nail surface, although they may well return. There are also a number of natural remedies which some people find effective.
• White vinegar: Either apply directly, or soak the toes in a solution of one part vinegar to two parts warm water for 10-15 minutes daily.
• Tea tree oil is a very popular remedy — mix with equal parts olive oil and apply directly to the nail.
• Cinnamon leaf oil with at least 75% Eugenol content. Mix 1% oil with 99% water and spray on the toenail.
These natural treatments are only effective in mild cases. In addition, most chemical formulations are not very effective most of the time. The thickness of the nail makes it hard for them to penetrate.
However, there is a medicated nail lacquer, called ciclopirox or Penlac. It has been approved by the FDA as a toenail fungus treatment, provided the fungus has not reached the white portion of the nail. This is painted on the nail every day, and removed with alcohol before re-applying — it is said to be only 10% effective.
Any topical applications are likely to work better if used in conjunction with oral medication. Most oral medications work about 50% of the time. They may take 9-12 months to ascertain whether the treatment has succeeded or not. Oral medications that have been found to have some effect include:
• Sporanox or Itraconazole, usually prescribed in pulse doses of a week in each month for three months. It can interact with some asthma medications.
• Diffucan or Flucanozole — one dose weekly for six months.
• Lamisil or Terbinafine. This is considered the safest and most effective, but should not be prescribed for people with liver disease. It is taken once a day for three months.
If these treatments are not effective, surgery may be required. The nail can be removed temporarily to allow topical treatments to be applied more effectively. If the condition is very advanced, permanent removal may be advised. In most cases, an intact nail eventually grows back.
To prevent drastic measures such as surgery, more and more people are turning to laser treatment. The fungus is targeted by powerful laser beams, which can penetrate the nail. This treatment is painless, and is virtually guaranteed to be successful, unlike any of the other treatments.
It’s important to take measures to prevent the fungal infection from recurring. Wash and dry your feet daily, always wear clean hosiery. Avoid going barefoot at the pool or in communal showers. And don’t wear shoes or socks that are too tight. Nail fungus is an unpleasant and long-lasting problem, and the more you can do to prevent it, the better.