Toenail fungus is a very common foot complaint. It is thought that by the age of 80, a high percentage of patients will have had this problem. Toenail fungus is referred to as onychomycosis. It typically presents as yellow discoloration in the nail, and the nail may also become thickened and crumbly. Although less common, there may also be a white discoloration. It is frequently accompanied by athletes’ foot (tinea pedis) on the skin which is the same fungal organism. Fungus is all around us, so it’s hard to avoid. It may be on the floor, in showers, in your shoes. Many may think that it is very contagious but in fact, whether you get toenail fungus or not may be more based upon your immune system. There is evidence to suggest that patients with diabetes may have an immune system that is compromised, and therefore fungal nails are more common. Also, one spouse may have fungal nails and the other never has the problem!
How to Avoid Toenail Fungus
The best way to avoid toenail fungus is to avoid public showers, keep your feet dry, and after bathing, dry your feet immediately and wear shoes that breathe – especially if you have feet that tend to perspire.
There are options you can try before you see a doctor, but understand that nails grow very slowly. It can take over nine months for an entire new nail, so you’ll see the full effect of home remedies over that period. My suggestion is as follows:
- Start treatment immediately if you’re suspicious you have toenail fungus. Early treatment is important if you want the best chance for the following home treatments to be effective.
- Try these options and if you see no change in 3-4 months, you should consider seeing a podiatrist.
- If you have a medical condition such as diabetes and your nails are very thickened, or cracking, seek professional advice.
Finally, fungus can deform the nail making it thicker and change the shape of the nail. This is why ingrown nails are more common. If you see any drainage, redness or notice odor from the nail area, it’s best to seek medical attention for this.
You may want to consider the following home remedies. When doing these soaks, consider doing a foot bath so that the entire foot can be soaked.
Foot Soaks & Toenail Fungus – Treatment Options
Listerine Soak:- Yes, some will claim that this is helpful. It is thought that Listerine has some antifungal properties, but more research is needed to understand how effective it is for toenail fungus. The suggested treatment is to mix 30-50 ml of Listerine in 2 cups of warm water and soak for 30 minutes once a day. If you have dry scaly skin, it may also be effective in improving this. People with sensitive skin may react to Listerine so it’s advised to apply some to your skin and see if you have any redness after a few hours before you soak.
Apple Cider Vinegar: Use the following mixture – 1/3 cup white vinegar, 2 cups hot water, and 1/3 cup Epsom salt. Make sure to soak your entire foot for 30 minutes once a day. Taking apple cider vinegar orally may also have some beneficial health effects by working against the fungus from the inside out. The acid in vinegar from the acetic acid it contains is thought to kill the fungus.
Additional Topical Treatments To Include
Tea Tree Oil: This is a type of essential oil you can buy over the counter. Other options might include cinnamon oil and peppermint oil. Some claim that this will have a positive effect. You don’t need to use a lot to go a long way. Simply clean the nail, or nails with alcohol then rub the tea tree oil in.
Olive Leaf Extract: This has been said to have a natural antibacterial, antiviral, and antifungal effect. This can be purchased in some stores or online. It can be taken orally or topically.
If you find that you’ve tried these home remedies and you’re still needing help, consider seeking a consultation with a podiatrist. Compared to the home treatments, we are recommending treatment options that have been medically reviewed.
Topical Treatments: This may include over-the-counter recommendations or prescriptions. We also offer a product in the clinic that has been shown to be very effective as it contains a compound that allows for better absorption of the antifungal agents into the nail.
Oral Medication: Oral Lamisil may be recommended by some doctors, however for this doctor, I seldom recommend it because of potential liver toxicity. If you are considering this option, make sure your doctor does a liver panel before use, and at intervals during treatment.
Laser Nail Treatment: Laser nail treatment is by far our most common treatment for our patients. The laser uses pulsed energy that delivers painless heat into the nail. It’s the heat that destroys the toenail fungus. If the nails are thickened, grinding the nails down will assist in allowing the laser to penetrate better. It also helps with the appearance of the nail.