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How to Get Rid of Toe Nail Fungus

Updated on September 18, 2017
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Jo has been an ITU nurse at the London North West NHS Trust for 14 years. She obtained her RN at University College London Hospital.

What is Fungal Nail Infection?

Spring is in the air, in spite of the six inches of snow outside, and we are looking forward to a long hot summer. It's time to dig out those sexy shoes and sandals, time to uncover and show off those gorgeous legs; but wait, what is going on with the toenails? Yikes!! The dreaded nail fungal infection.

While not life-threatening, fungal nail infection or Onychomycosis can be unsightly and embarrassing, it can also have an adverse effect on our quality of life. People who suffer from fungal nail infection will often avoid activities such as swimming and other sports that may require the use of a communal changing room.

High Grade Virgin Coconut Oil Contains Both Antifungal and Antibacterial Properties

High Grade Virgin Coconut Oil contains antibacterial, antiviral and antifungal properties. There are many anecdotal evidence for the effectiveness in treating mild to moderate infection, especially when  combined with Oregano, or Tea tree oil.
High Grade Virgin Coconut Oil contains antibacterial, antiviral and antifungal properties. There are many anecdotal evidence for the effectiveness in treating mild to moderate infection, especially when combined with Oregano, or Tea tree oil.

Fungal nail infection is one of the most commonly occurring dermatological conditions. Studies show around three in every hundred people in the UK are affected by fungal nail infection and up to 20% of American adults are suffering from this condition.

The incidence of fungal nail infection appears to be increasing; this is thought to be as a result of factors such as increasing prevalence of diabetes in the population, more frequent incidence of immunosuppression and an aging population. Fungal infection is responsible for about fifty percent of all nail problems.

The condition usually affects adults; becoming more common as we get older. It is four times more likely to occur in the toenails than fingernails. Fungal infection of the nail can involve all or part of the nail, including the plate, bed, and root. While the condition is not hereditary, it may occur in members of the same family at the same time, because it can be transferred from one person to another.

Symptoms of Fungal Infection

The most common symptoms of fungal nail infection are in the appearance of the nail. Nails become thickened and discolored, appearing white, yellow, black or green. As the disease progresses, the nail can become brittle and crumbly with pieces of nail breaking off and the shape distorted. In some cases, it can fall away from the nail bed completely.

The fungal infection is often initially painless, and generally, do not cause further complications. However, If left untreated, although rare, it can cause pain, the skin underneath and around the nail bed can become inflamed with yellow patches or scaly skin.

Antifungal tablets is a very successful treatment; it allows the medication to reach the nails through the bloodstream. The two most commonly prescribed oral medication for fungal nail infection is terbinafine and itraconazole. These drugs can be useful but there is a potential for minor to serious side effects, and even if the treatment works, the infection may return.

In patients where the infection has been treated successfully with antifungal tablets,15% to 20% gets another infection in the next year. From 100 people, taking the oral medication, 15 to 20 will get another infection in the next year and 80 to 85 will not.

What Are the Causes of Nail Fungus

Several types of fungus can cause fungal nail infection. Athlete's foot is a fungal skin infection that affects the skin between the toes, causing it to become red, flaky and itchy, spreading to the toenails.

Candida is a yeast that can cause infection of the skin around the nails, particularly the fingernail. Candida yeast infection is commonly found in occupations that require frequent hand washing, or where the hands are in water a lot. Fungi thrive in warm moist environment, some of the factors that can increase the risk of fungal nail infection are:

  • Wearing shoes that cause hot sweaty feet, such as trainers, or being in a humid environment
  • Regular damage to the nail or skin
  • Ill health or particular health condition such as diabetes or psoriasis
  • A weakened Immune system
  • Poor general health
  • Using artificial nails
  • Nail damage
  • Consistent nail biting
  • Living in warm, humid climate
  • Smoking

Treating Toenail Fungus

Antifungal Tablets

Treatment is not always needed if the infection is mild, but left untreated; the infection can spread to other nails. Clipping of the affected nails may be tested to find out the exact cause of the disease and to rule out other conditions.

The removal of fungal nail infection should be done in a way that is safe, effective and permanent. The condition can be treated and eventually cured. However, some types of treatment can take several months to work. The main treatment options are anti-fungal tablets or anti-fungal nail paint.

Antifungal tablet treatment is very successful; it allows the medication to reach the nails through the bloodstream. The most commonly prescribed oral medications for fungal nail infection is the first line of treatment drugs, Terbinafine (Lamisil), and Itraconazole (Sporanox). Although these drugs can be useful, there is a potential for minor to serious side effects, and even when the treatment works, the infection may return. Fluconazole (Diflucan) has been recommended by The British Association of Dermatologist, as a potentially useful alternative in patients who are unable to tolerate terbinafine or itraconazole. British Journal of Dermatology (2014).

In patients where the infection has been treated successfully with antifungal tablets,15% to 20% gets another infection in the next year. Out of 100 people, who take the oral medication, 15 to 20 will get another infection in the next year and 80 to 85 will not.

Side effects include:-

  • liver and kidney failure.
  • A weakening of the heart's ability to contract effectively, leading to heart failure.
  • Cause dangerous side effects when combined with many different common medicines.
  • During treatment with oral antifungal medication
  • Headache
  • Itching
  • Loss of sense of taste
  • Nausea
  • Diarrhoea

Medication may have to be taken for several months to ensure that the infection has completely cleared.

Stopping the treatment too early may result in the infection returning, oral medication has the added advantage that they will also help any other associated fungal skin infection such as athlete's foot simultaneously. For those who prefer not to take oral medication, antifungal nail paint may be used instead.

Antifungal Nail Paint

Instead of taking oral medication to treat fungal nail infection, an anti-fungal preparation can be painted directly on the affected nail. When applied as a nail varnish, the drug kills the fungus that is causing the infection. The antifungal drug stops the fungus growing; Fungus should eventually die off to allow the growth of a new healthy nail. Unfortunately, there hasn't been much research available in the UK on antifungal nail paint.

Currently available oral medication for nail fungus is thought to have a cure rate of around 40%. Topical treatments such as nail paint are considered safer than oral therapy but have a lower cure rate. However, there is now a third option, Laser Therapy.

Cold Laser/ Low-Level Laser Therapy

Low-level cold laser therapy is described as cold because it does not rely on heat; it is said to be the most effective, fastest most advanced and safest treatment for fungal nail infection. Laser treatment is new and controversial, and the result varies in clinical practice, but there has been no adverse reaction or side effect.

Laser treatment involves the shining of a light beam through the affected nail, the beam of light kills fungus by reacting with the cell wall but leaves surrounding healthy tissue unharmed.

Laser treatment is offered by specialist clinics and can be rather pricey since this treatment is considered to be aesthetic; health insurance plans do not cover it. However, laser treatment is said to have no side effects; there are no age or health restrictions or limitations.

The procedure has a success rate of over 80%. Following laser treatment patient should notice results within 2 to 4 months, depending on how quickly their nails grow.

The new clear nail will appear as the infected portion grows out. It takes about 8 to 12 months for the nail to grow completely out.

In extreme cases, surgical removal of the affected nail may be necessary.

Home Treatment For Nail Fungal Infection

Many people swear by various home treatment for fungal nail infection, here are some that are tried and tested:

  • Tea tree oil- this oil is extracted from the Australian tree, Melaleuca alternifolia. The oil is known to be effective in treating viral, yeast, bacteria and fungal infection. The oil can be easily applied to the infected nail using a cotton ball. A few drops of tea tree oil added to the bath water can be beneficial for feet and skin care. Before commencing treatment, it is advisable to get a diagnosis from a doctor or healthcare provider.
  • Vinegar- with its antiseptic and acidity properties, white vinegar creates an environment where fungi are unable to grow and thrive.
  • Coconut oil- studies show evidence of the healing properties of coconut oil for skin conditions. Coconut oil is abundant in lauric acid that contains antiviral, anti-fungal, anti-inflammatory and anti-bacterial properties
  • Oil of oregano- studies show oil of oregano fights Candida without any side effect
  • Neem Oil- has an antifungal action and enhances the look of brittle fingernails with its moisturizing and nourishing properties.
  • Sea Salt- An inexpensive way to treat Fungal nail infection
  • Baking Soda- highly alkaline and can help to balance the PH levels and inhibit the growth of bacteria and fungus
  • Lemongrass Oil- have antibacterial and antifungal properties
  • Vicks VapoRub- is safe to use and cost-effective. In a short pilot study by The Journal of the American Board of Family Medicine, Vicks VapoRub has been found to have a positive effect in the treatment of onychomycosis, a fungal infection of the nail. For more information see, www.jabfm.org/content/24/1/69.long. Discuss with your doctor or Healthcare provider prior to taking medication, especially if you are pregnant or have diabetes.

A 2017 User Survey Comparison of the Top 5 Rated Over the Counter Topical Treatment for Nail Fungus

(click column header to sort results)
   
   
   
FixiNail  
   
Zetaclear  
   
Loceryl  
Emuaid  
Canespro  
Overall Rating
 
 
5*
 
4*
 
4*
3.2*
3.1*
User Success Rating
 
 
96%
 
81%
 
78%
74%
66%
User Usage Time
 
 
95%
 
91%
 
86%
59%
55%
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
FixiNail scored the highest in the Fungal Nail Info User Survey. This topical preparation contains strong antifungal agents plus supplementary Ingredients. FixiNail Clear softens nail for easy removal of part of the infected nail by filing before ant

References

British Association of Dermatologists. Guidelines for Treatment of Onychomycosis. Br J Dermatol. (2003) Https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/12653730.

British Journal of Dermatologists. BAD guideline for Onychomycosis 2014, Ameen et al.

Novel Treatment of Onychomycosis Using Over-the-Counter Mentholated Ointment: A Clinical Case Series. www.jabfm.org

Fungal Nail Info. Top five Fungal Nail Products. www.fungalnailinfo.co.uk/comparison/topical.

Having read this article, do you think you may have a fungal nail infection

See results

© 2013 Jo Alexis-Hagues

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    • profile image

      Hurley elizabeth 23 months ago

      Thank you for your good post. toenail fungus is different from ingrown toenails.I was sufferer in this Disease.Have you another way for my nail fungus treatment? at present my cosine suffer from this disease..please tell me, how to help my cosine with a good decision?http://goo.gl/jojvPc

    • tobusiness profile image
      Author

      Jo Alexis-Hagues 4 years ago from Bedfordshire, U.K

      Skye, it's good to know that the home remedies actually works!.. although it takes time, there is light at the end of the tunnel. Nail polish sounds good; but maybe not all the time, as you said; it makes it more difficult to get to the root of the problem. Thank you for the visit and great comment, much appreciated.

      My best to you, love Jo.

    • skye2day profile image

      skye2day 4 years ago from Rocky Mountains

      Jo Great tips, well written and organized. I always feel for nail fungus people more so men because it is not likely they will paint their toes. I paint mine and use natural remedies so far nasty fungus is under control. Thank God for the polish. Although I know if the infection is bad polish avails the toe very little. Your a great writer girl. Wow. Very good. Love, Skye

    • tobusiness profile image
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      Jo Alexis-Hagues 4 years ago from Bedfordshire, U.K

      Hi Pamela, thank you for checking this out, it's good to know that the tea tree oil actually does the job.

      I think you may be right about Florida, fungi loves the warm humidity. Thank you again for stopping by, and for the comment.

      My best to you.

    • Pamela99 profile image

      Pamela Oglesby 4 years ago from United States

      You have covered all the bases with this excellent article. I started to have a problem, maybe because I live in FL, but I caught it early. Anyway, I used tea tree oil and it was gone in no time.

    • tobusiness profile image
      Author

      Jo Alexis-Hagues 4 years ago from Bedfordshire, U.K

      DDE, It's always good to be prepared, even if it is not currently a problem it's good to have the information. Thank you for taking a look, much appreciated.

    • DDE profile image

      Devika Primić 4 years ago from Dubrovnik, Croatia

      Nail infection looks dreadful but you put out important information on such issues, a well-presented hub with and is useful to anyone.

    • tobusiness profile image
      Author

      Jo Alexis-Hagues 4 years ago from Bedfordshire, U.K

      rajan, I hope your son will be able to find something here to help, always good to catch infection early, but it takes some time before the results are evident. Many thanks for checking this out, always appreciated.

    • rajan jolly profile image

      Rajan Singh Jolly 4 years ago from From Mumbai, presently in Jalandhar,INDIA.

      Jo, my son has fungus infection of the big toenail. I'm going to ask him to try out these remedies.

      Voted up and useful.

    • tobusiness profile image
      Author

      Jo Alexis-Hagues 4 years ago from Bedfordshire, U.K

      Michelle, thank you for stopping by, the home remedies seem very popular, we are all very wary about what we take into our bodies, and rightly so.

    • midget38 profile image

      Michelle Liew 4 years ago from Singapore

      Jo, this was useful! I am also glad that you've included home remedies with this. Thanks for sharing!

    • tobusiness profile image
      Author

      Jo Alexis-Hagues 4 years ago from Bedfordshire, U.K

      Hi Sue, so nice to see you!... the thickened toe nail may well be due to natural aging, but still worth keeping an eye on it. If it's a fungal infection it's always best to catch it early. Thank you for stopping by and for the comment vote and share, much appreciated, my best to you.

    • profile image

      Sueswan 4 years ago

      Hi Jo,

      I don't think that I have a nail fungus but a couple of my toe nails are thick.

      Voted up and sharing

      Take care :)

    • tobusiness profile image
      Author

      Jo Alexis-Hagues 4 years ago from Bedfordshire, U.K

      Hi Parks, lovely to see you and many thanks for stopping by, much appreciated. I hope the information will be helpful. Take care and my best to you.

    • Parks McCants profile image

      Parks McCants 4 years ago from Eugene Oregon U.S.A.

      Thank you for providing possible natural remedies. Most appreciated.

    • tobusiness profile image
      Author

      Jo Alexis-Hagues 4 years ago from Bedfordshire, U.K

      Tirelesstraveler, I'm only too happy to spread a little enlightenment :). Thank you for stopping by, much appreciated.

    • tirelesstraveler profile image

      Judy Specht 4 years ago from California

      Keep hearing ads about them" New toes" treatment for fungal infections. Have wondered what the infection looked like. You have shown me the answer. Thanks

    • tobusiness profile image
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      Jo Alexis-Hagues 4 years ago from Bedfordshire, U.K

      Eddy, I hope your partner find this helpful, thank you so much for stopping by. Take care and my best to you.

    • Eiddwen profile image

      Eiddwen 4 years ago from Wales

      My partner suffers from type 2 diabtetes and has very mild fungal nail infection so I shall pass this one onto him. Thank you for sharing and voted up.

      Eddy.

    • tobusiness profile image
      Author

      Jo Alexis-Hagues 4 years ago from Bedfordshire, U.K

      Hi Martin, thank you, always appreciated.

    • Mhatter99 profile image

      Martin Kloess 4 years ago from San Francisco

      Thank you for this info.

    • profile image

      lovedoctor926 4 years ago

      @ tobusiness, you're a trip! lol. my pleasure.

    • tobusiness profile image
      Author

      Jo Alexis-Hagues 4 years ago from Bedfordshire, U.K

      Gypsy48, lovely to see you, I hope you'll never get this also, but if you do, you'll know how to get rid of it. Thank you so much for the visit and comment, very much appreciated.

    • Gypsy48 profile image

      Gypsy48 4 years ago

      Voted up and useful. Informative hub, I've never had nail fungus and after seeing these pictures I hope I never get it. Thanks for sharing.

    • tobusiness profile image
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      Jo Alexis-Hagues 4 years ago from Bedfordshire, U.K

      Hi Doc, nice to see you, thanks for the visit, comment and vote. May just be needing the 'Lovedoctor' to help with this one :).

    • tobusiness profile image
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      Jo Alexis-Hagues 4 years ago from Bedfordshire, U.K

      Billy, good to know you've got pretty toes :). You are right, nail fungus can be very unsightly. Many thanks for checking it out, always appreciated. Take care and my best to you.

    • profile image

      lovedoctor926 4 years ago

      Informative and useful. voted up! love doctor?? lol.

    • tobusiness profile image
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      Jo Alexis-Hagues 4 years ago from Bedfordshire, U.K

      Oh Frank!...I won't even go there, but I hope the pain was preceded by a lot of pleasure :). Thank you for checking this out, always appreciated.

    • billybuc profile image

      Bill Holland 4 years ago from Olympia, WA

      I have never had this but I have seen it on others and it is truly ugly. Thanks for the great information, Jo! I'll pass it on to those who can use it. Well done!

    • Frank Atanacio profile image

      Frank Atanacio 4 years ago from Shelton

      damn that looks nasty, I don't think I have a nail fungus but in college I did get something like that.. doctor took care of it quick..:) thanks for sharing this hub toobusiness