What Is Toenail Fungus
Toenail fungus is usually an infection of the toenail caused by opportunistic fungi, explains Oliva. It may cause your nail to turn a yellow or white hue, thicken, or crumble at the outer edges.
While toenail fungus can occur in people of all ages, board-certified dermatologist Marie Hayag, MD, says that its most common in older folks. As the nail ages, it is prone to becoming brittle and dry, which can result in cracks in the nails that make it susceptible to fungal infections, she explains, noting that all of the aforementioned causes can be even more of a concern as a result.
Meet the Expert
- , MD, is a board-certified dermatologist practicing in Manhattan. She is an assistant clinical professor at Mount Sinai Hospital and also teaches in the Dermatology Departments surgery clinic.
- Francisco Oliva, DPM, is a Miami-based podiatrist who has been in private practice for 25+ years.
Nevertheless, because developing a toenail fungus can occur at all ages, we reveal the best ways to treat toenail fungus at home, below.
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Preventing Toenail Fungus From Spreading
While you can’t avoid contact with the microscopic organisms that cause toenail fungus its present anywhere that is warm, dark, or moist keeping your feet clean and dry and clipping your nails properly can help prevent an infection.
For fungus to grow, there needs to be some type of trauma to the nail where the nail-skin junction, or natural barrier, is disrupted, says Sheth. For example, from a pedicure, ill-fitting shoes, or the repetitive trauma of running or hiking that causes the nail to lift or get pressed on from shoes or boots.
Still, some people are more vulnerable than others, she adds. Some people have it only on one toe or one foot, and some have lived with a partner who has it but they never get it,” Sheth says. “And for some you see it in their entire family. It’s not as straightforward as it seems, and it’s an annoying problem.
If you do get a toenail fungus infection, these measures can help stop it from spreading:
Getting rid of established toenail fungus can be difficult. Successfully eliminating it depends on careful adherence to a treatment plan.
“What happens over time is that the fungus breeds in the nail tissue and goes from being just a little bit on the nail, to a really discolored and thickened nail, to a nail that is totally embedded with fungus,” explains Marlene Reid, a doctor of podiatric medicine in Naperville, Illinois, and a spokesperson for the American Podiatric Medical Association.
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Is It Possible To Prevent The Recurrence Of Nail Fungus
Tinea pedis, also known as athlete’s foot or foot fungus, can cause recurrence of fungal nails. Therefore, it is important to manage this condition. One can apply over-the-counter antifungal medicines such as clotrimazole or terbinafine cream as directed to affected skin. Keeping footwear and socks clean can be helpful. You can also use portable UV light sanitizers to disinfect shoes.
Treatment Options For Nail Fungus
Most of my conversation is usually discussing medical therapy, so things that are available by prescription only. And those come in two main forms, which are topical antifungal medications, and then oral antifungal medications. There are other surgical or procedural options, so you can remove nails as well. And then there’s starting to be more interest in technologies like lasers for nail fungus.
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Soak Your Feet In Vinegar
Heres another pantry item that can deliver optimal results for toenail fungal infections. According to Hayag, applying white vinegar to the fungal-infected areas can prove worthwhile, thanks to its antibacterial properties.
Similar to oregano oil, applying white vinegar topically on fungus-infected toenails has some anecdotal evidence that supports its antibacterial benefits. Soak your foot in one part vinegar to two parts warm water for up to 20 minutes daily, she suggests, saying that this can help with the fungus, help with just the discoloration, or it may not help at all, depending on how your toes react.
Soak In Apple Cider Vinegar
Apple cider vinegar is a folk remedy for almost everything these days, including ingrown toenails. Its believed to have antiseptic, anti-inflammatory, and pain-relieving abilities, although scientific evidence is limited at best.
To try this remedy, prepare a basin of warm water combined with 1/4 cup apple cider vinegar. Soak the affected foot for up to 20 minutes daily. Dry your foot thoroughly after soaking.
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/6toenail Infection Is A Contagious Disease
Toenail fungus also known as onychomycosis is a common infection of the toenail. This contagious disease can be very painful and can even spread to other parts of the body, if not treated immediately.
The most common symptom of the toenail infection is a white, brown or yellow discoloration of one or more toenails. It may spread and even cause the nails to thicken and crack.
Traditionally, anti-fungal treatments such as terbinafine or fluconazole are used to cure toenail fungus, but these treatments have some serious side effects like upset stomach, dizziness, and jaundice. Most people opt for home remedies to cure this disease.
You can also try these popular home remedies, if your toenail is troubling you.
What Tests Might I Have For Toenail Fungus
Your provider will probably take a small sample from underneath your nail to further analyze it. Viewing the cells under a microscope can confirm a toenail fungus diagnosis. If the initial test is negative, a scraping can be sent to see if the fungus grows out in a culture. It also helps your provider identify the type of fungus.
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Medical Complications From Untreated Fungal Toenail Infection
Without proper treatment to stop your toenail fungal infection from getting worse, or spreading, complications will eventually develop. Fungal infections of your toenail can spread to the surrounding skin and when your skin becomes cracked, bacteria can enter and cause an abscess.
An abscess on the toe is a tender mass generally surrounded by a colored area from pink to deep red. They are often easy to feel by touching. Inside they are full of pus, bacteria and debris.
Untreated toenail fungal infections can lead to cellulitis and should be treated immediately with antibiotics. Untreated skin infections of the toe may lead to severe cellulitis and if the infection enters the bloodstream it can become septicemia, also known as bacteremia or blood poisoning. Once the infection enters the bloodstream the bacteria and their toxins are carried through the bloodstream to your entire body. If the bacteria levels become high enough, septicemia can quickly become life threatening.
A good reason to seek treatment if you suspect you have a toenail fungal infection is because of the similarity of symptoms for differing diagnosis of more serious toenail conditions. You may have a toenail fungus, but you could also be experiencing similar symptoms of a toenail viral infection , complications from toenail trauma, a pre-malignant lesion or, more seriously, melanoma of the nail bed.
When To Contact A Doctor
Toenail fungus is typically not a significant problem for most people. However, if there are no improvements or complications occur as a result of home remedies, people should speak with a doctor and stop using the home remedy as soon as possible. It is also advisable to contact a podiatrist if a person notices any discoloration, thickening, or abnormality of the toenails.
Furthermore, people at higher risk for complications should seek medical treatment for their toenail fungus and avoid home remedies altogether. This includes those with diabetes or with weakened immune systems.
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How Is Toenail Fungus Treated
Toenail fungus is notoriously tricky to treat. You may need to treat the condition for several months to get rid of the fungus. Still, toenail fungus often comes back.
A dermatologist or podiatrist can explain your treatment options. If you have a mild case that doesnt bother you, your provider may recommend no treatment.
Toenail fungus treatment options include:
- Oral antifungal medication: You take prescribed medication, such terbinafine , itraconazole and fluconazole , to treat the fungi. You will need to take this medication every day for several months . Your provider may use blood tests to check for potential medication side effects. These medications can affect the liver and interact with other medications, so oral antifungals are not for everyone.
- Topical medication: You regularly apply a medication right on the nail. The medication treats the fungi over time. Topical medications are most effective when paired with oral medications.
- Laser treatments: Your provider directs a high-tech laser beam and special lights at the toenail to treat the fungus. Lasers are FDA approved for temporary increase of clear nail in nail fungus but is not a cure. Cure rates for laser treatment are lower than oral and topical mediations so they are not typically used as first-line treatments for nail fungus.
Coconut Oil For Toenail Fungus
The high content of caprylic acid in coconut oil is one of the medium-chain fatty acids. It has the ability to go through the tough cell wall of toenail fungus . When the protective coating of the cells is ruptured the fungus dissolve, removing the infection fast. Apply some coconut oil thin layer to toenail fungus and let it absorb the oil in for at least 10-15 minutes. Coconut oil is highly beneficial for skin health, so there is no limit to how often you can follow this treatment. Make sure you arent allergic to coconuts, before using coconut oil to sensitive tissue. Read article on uses and benefits of coconut oil for skin.
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Stop This Skin Infection In Its Tracks With These Over
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Verywell Health / Sabrina Jiang
Toenail fungus is a common fungal condition that often starts after a rash on the foot spreads to the nails. When mild, it looks like white and yellow spots growing under the nail beds. But if left untreated, the fungus can grow severely by hardening the nails and spreading to other toes.
The fungus often begins in the form of athlete’s foot between the toes or on the soles of the feet. At this stage, the fungal infection is easier to treat with over-the-counter medication. But Shari Lipner, MD, a board-certified dermatologist at New York-Presbyterian Hospital/Weill Cornell Medicine, told Verywell Health toenail fungus can be difficult to treat because of how slow the nails grow. The more severe the toenail fungus, the thicker the nail, and the more nails involved makes it that much harder to treat the nails even with effective therapies, she says.
Diagnosing the fungal infection early is key to make treatments effective. Dr. Lipner recommends visiting a board-certified dermatologist to properly treat the infection if it grows to be too severe.
Here are a few of the best over-the-counter toenail fungus treatments on the market.
How Can I Prevent Toenail Fungus
Theres no way to guarantee that you wont get toenail fungus. But you can take several steps to help prevent it:
- Avoid going barefoot in communal areas such as hotel rooms / showers, public showers, locker rooms and swimming pools. Most people pick up fungus in these situations. It helps to wear flip flops in these public areas.
- If you have a family member with foot fungus or nail fungus, try to use different shower or wear flip flops in the shower to avoid coming in contact with it.
- Trauma due to accidental or aggressive clipping of the nails can turn into portals of entry for the fungus.
- Clean your nail trimmer before using it.
- Do not tear or rip your toenails on purpose.
- If you have diabetes, follow all foot care recommendations from your healthcare provider.
- Keep your feet dry. Make sure to fully dry your feet after a shower.
- Soak toenails in warm water before cutting them. Or you can cut your nails after a shower or bath.
- Trim toenails straight across .
- Wear shoes that fit correctly. They should not be too loose or tight around the toes.
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How Do Dermatologists Diagnose Nail Fungus
To find out if a patient has nail fungus, a dermatologist examines your nails and nearby skin. Its important to check the skin because the fungus can spread. You may already have a skin infection caused by fungus like athletes foot.
To get rid of the infection, you will need to treat all infected areas.
Before giving you the diagnosis, your dermatologist may also take some samples. Collecting a bit of debris from beneath a nail, trimming off part your nail, or scraping off a bit of skin can be very helpful. In a lab, these samples can be examined under a microscope to find out whats causing the problem.
Are you hiding an infected nail with nail polish?
Be sure to ask your dermatologist if you can wear nail polish while treating nail fungus.
Use The White Vinegar
To treat any skin infection than white vinegar is one of the best as it is easily available and is anti-fungal in nature. It also helps to balance the pH of skin, which lowers the inflammation and pain of toe. Mix a cup of warm water with two teaspoons of white vinegar. Soak your affected toenail in this mixture for 15 minutes. Rinse it off and rub it softly with a cloth to dry it. Repeat the remedy two times in a day.
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What Does Fungal Nail Look Like
Usually, it first appears on the edge of your nail, under the tip, as a white or yellow streak. This streak gradually spreads down the side of your nail to the base.
Eventually, your nail becomes brittle, discoloured, thickened and distorted. It can become so thick that it hurts when pressed against the side of a shoe.
The nail may end up crumbling and splitting, and separating from the skin. It often turns yellow or brown.
The surrounding skin may also become infected and may itch, crack, form a blister, or appear white especially between the toes. Its important to act quickly if you notice any of these symptoms. If you don’t treat the infection, there’s a chance it will worsen and spread to other nails.
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Keep Your Feet Dry And Clean
When your feet and nails have too much of moisture and warm which is brought by shoes and socks, they itself create a sweaty environment which encourage nail fungus to grow. You just have to keep your nails short, clean and dry for healthy nails. Always keep your nails short to ward off bacteria from getting trapped under them.
You can find shoes and socks that allow your feet breathe to avoid toenail fungus. Always wear clean socks as they can harbor fungal spores. Always check that your shoes fit well and there is enough space for your fingers to breathe. Discard those footwear that you were worn while having an infection. You can wear ventilating socks which doesnt allow moisture to build up. Avoid wearing cotton and wool socks, if you sweat while wearing them. You go with synthetic socks that wont give you moisture and also get trapped inside your socks.
When To See A Bethesda Md Or Springfield Va Podiatrist
If you try several of these remedies and see no results, its time to see a podiatrist. Toenail fungus is notoriously stubborn, so dont be too surprised if home remedies dont quite work. It can also take quite a long time for these home remedies to work because you have to continue doing them consistently until the new nail has fully grown out.
If youve tried the homeopathic route and arent satisfied with the results, you can always come see Bethesda, MD & Springfield, VA Podiatrist, Dr. Paul Ross! If you have moderate to severe foot fungus, it is recommended that you see a doctor anyway because there can be complications if the infection is left untreated. Call us at . We offer same day appointments if you dont want to wait.
Our Bethesda, Maryland and Springfield, Virginia Podiatry offices offer the most effective and state-of-the-art, quality podiatry care services with a smile to patients in our local community, including: Woodbridge VA, Fairfax VA, Annandale VA, Arlington VA, Alexandria VA, Burke VA, Gaithersburg MD, Potomac MD, Silver Spring MD, Rockville MD and Chevy Chase MD.
Return to a pain-free life and get back to the things you love!
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