A medical condition called toenail fungus, also known as onychomycosis, is a peculiar fungal infection of the toenail. The most noticeable symptom is a yellow, brown, or white discoloration of one or more of the toenails. The infection may spread and make the toenails crack or thicken.
Sandal season or not, fungal infection of the toenail isn’t what you want at your feet. Fortunately, there is an abundance of treatments that you can try, such as natural remedies for toenail fungus. Prescription oral antifungals, such as fluconazole or terbinafine, are traditionally used to treat toenail fungus. These treatments can be effective but may be accompanied by severe side effects such as jaundice, severe skin problems, dizziness, and an upset stomach.
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Table of Contents
- Meaning of toenail fungus
- Symptoms of toenail
- Causes of toenail fungus
- Diagnosing toenail fungus
- Home remedies for toenail fungus
What is Toenail Fungus?
Toenail fungus is a fungal infection that enters the skin through cuts in your skin or cracks in your nail. Toenail fungus can change the color of your toenail or make it become thicker. Toenail fungus can be pretty painful. Because toes are usually damp and warm, fungus easily grows there. Various types of fungi and sometimes yeast affect several parts of the nail.
If left untreated, the fungi can spread to other parts of the toenails, fingernails, or even the skin. If your toenail fungus is a mild condition that does not bother you, you may require no treatment. However, if it is painful and has caused your nails to become thick, medications and self-care steps may help.
Unfortunately, toenail fungus may return even after being treated, but home remedies for toenail fungus may give your condition a more lasting remedy.
Symptoms of Toenail Fungus
Infected toenails are often thicker than the healthy ones, and they could be oddly shaped or warped. Infected nails can also break easily. As a result, toenails with fungus might appear yellow. In some cases, a white dot shows up on the nail and then spreads bigger. When fungus develops under the toenail, it can loosen or separate the toenail from the bed. The fungus can also infect the skin around your toenail:
You may have toenail fungus if one or more of your toenails are:
- smelling slightly foul
- a dark color due to the build-up of debris under the toenail
- distorted in shape
- ragged, crumbly, or brittle
- yellow-brown to whitish discoloration
Causes of Toenail Fungus
Fungal toenail infections are a result of various fungal organisms. The most common cause of this infection is a kind of fungus known as dermatophyte. Mold and yeast can also be responsible for toenail infections:
Fungal toenail infection can affect people at any age, but older adults are usually more susceptible. As the nail ages, it can become dry and brittle. The resulting crack in the nail gives room for fungi to have access. Other factors – such as a weakened immune system or reduced blood circulation to the feet – may also be responsible for the infection.
Toenail fungal infection can begin with the athlete’s foot (foot fungus), spreading from one nail to another. But getting an infection from another person is unlikely.
Risk Factors Associated with Toenail Fungus
Factors that can increase your risk of developing toenail fungus include:
- being older, as a result of reduced blood flow, more years of exposure to fungi, and slower developing nails
- sweating heavily
- having a history of athlete’s foot
- walking without footwear in damp and communal areas, such as shower rooms, gyms, and swimming pools
- having a minor nail or skin injury or a skin condition, including psoriasis
- having a weakened immune system, circulation problems or diabetes
Complications Arising from Toenail Fungus Infections
A severe case of toenail infection caused by a fungus can be pretty excruciating and may permanently damage your toenails. In addition, the condition may result in other serious infections that spread past your feet if you have diabetes, suppressed immune system as a result of medication, or other medical conditions.
If you are dealing with diabetes, your feet’ nerve supply and blood circulation may reduce. You are also at risk of developing bacterial skin infection ((cellulitis). Therefore, any minor injury to your feet, such as a toenail fungal infection, may result in a more severe complication. Consult your physician if you have diabetes and believe you are developing nail fungus.
Preventing Toenail Fungus
The following are habits that can help prevent toenail fungus or reinfections:
- regularly and thoroughly wash your hands and feet. Also, wash your hand well after touching a nail that’s already infected. Finally, moisturize your toenails after washing.
- Trim your toenails straight across, use a file to smoothen the edge and file down thickened areas. Ensure that you disinfect your nail clipper before and after every use.
- Change your socks or wear sweat-absorbing socks throughout the day.
- Choose a shoe that is made from materials that breathe.
- Get rid of old shoes and treat them with antifungal powders or disinfectants
- Wear suitable footwear in locker rooms and pool areas
- Opt for a nail salon that makes use of sterilized manicure tools for each customer
Diagnosing Toenail Fungus
To determine whether you have the condition, the doctor will examine the toenails that appear infected. The doctor may also collect some nail clippings or scrape dirt from under the toenail and send the sample to a lab to indicate the type of fungus triggering the infection. Other conditions like psoriasis can also imitate the fungal infection of the toenail. In addition, microorganisms like bacteria and yeast can also infect the toenails. Therefore, identifying the cause of your infection can also help determine the right course of treatment.
Fungal toenail infections can be pretty hard to treat. Discuss with your healthcare provider if over-the-counter products and self-care strategies have not helped. Treatment is determined by how severe your condition is and the kind of fungus causing it. Improvements can take months to manifest. And even if there is an improvement in your toenail infection, repeat infections are also common.
Your healthcare professional may prescribe antifungal drugs that you can apply to the nail or take orally. In some cases, you may combine both topical and oral antifungal therapies. The following antifungal drugs can be taken for your toenail fungus:
- Oral antifungal drugs
- Medicated nail cream
- Medicated nail polish
Your healthcare professional might suggest removing the nail temporarily so that they can apply the antifungal drug directly to the infected part. However, some fungal toenail infections do not respond to medicines. If the infection is extremely painful or severe, your doctor might advise that you remove the toenail permanently.
Home Remedies for Toenail Fungus
Toenail fungus does not disappear on its own, and you suffer a chance of your infection getting worse if you do not treat the condition. The infection could spread through the body or other nails and might be painful whenever you walk. There are several natural ways you can eliminate toenail fungus:
1. Baking Soda
People who have been using baking soda as a remedy may suggest that baking soda is effective against toenail fungus as it can help absorb moisture that can lead to the infection. In addition, baking soda may possess fungistatic properties; this means that baking soda may not kill fungi but can stop them from growing. A small study has indicated that baking soda can keep fungi from growing. Unfortunately, no sufficient scientific evidence has shown that baking soda is effective against toenail fungus and no evidence also indicates that it can treat fungal infections either.
2. Menthol Products
Some have claimed that using menthol products is effective against toenail infections – menthol products like menthol rub may be able to treat toenail fungus. However, menthol products do not provide many benefits. A small study carried out in 2011 indicated that using a mentholated ointment may help with toenail fungus, but its chance of treating the infection is unlikely. More research is needed to prove that menthol products can effectively treat toenail fungus.
Vinegar is common in most households, and apple cider vinegar is effective against many health problems. A study carried out in 2017 indicated that apple cider vinegar may possess some antifungal properties. However, the study also revealed that more research should be carried out to investigate further the efficacy of apple cider vinegar against toenail fungus.
Like apple cider vinegar, there is no sure scientific proof that mouthwash can treat toenail fungus. However, some closed research suggests that because some mouthwash contains chlorhexidine, they may possess some antifungal properties, which will enable them to fight off toenail fungus. However, it is crucial to understand that the mouthwash that contains this ingredient requires a prescription in the United States, so you should not try to buy it without a proper prescription or over-the-counter. Trying to buy that kind of mouthwash without a prescription might be considered criminal in the United States.
While it is unlikely for some home remedies to provide benefits, the following may be beneficial:
- Keep nails clean, dry, and short
- Do not use the same nail clipper you have used for an infected nail on other healthy nails. Use another clipper for the other toenails
- Wear breathable and well-fitting shoes
- Wear cotton socks, keep your feet dry, and change the socks daily
- Maintain good foot hygiene
- Wear clean shower shoes when you are sharing a shower with someone suffering from toenail fungus
- Seek treatment from a podiatrist if thickened toenail makes you uncomfortable when walking
6. Essential Oils
Some evidence indicates that certain essential oils may have antifungal properties and possess some use alongside existing antifungal treatments. However, these oils may trigger irritation or allergy if not correctly used. A study carried out in 2020 claims that using essential oils of tea tree, oregano, and lime with a formulation containing vitamin E may have some benefits in treating toenail fungus. However, it is crucial to understand that this study used a topical product that contains these ingredients, and applying them at home may not yield the same result or have the same effect.
7. Snakeroot Extract
Snakeroot may not be popular in the United States, but it is used traditionally for treating several skin injuries and conditions in Mexico. Snakeroot extract is also called Ageratina pichinchensisis, and it is from the sunflower family. Snakeroot extract may have some antifungal properties. A study established in 2020 insists that even though some studies have discovered varying levels of success by using snakeroot oil, larger, well-designed research is also necessary to evaluate its effectiveness further. All in all, it won’t hurt terribly to apply snakeroot extract to your toenail fungus.
8. Adjust your Diet
There is an absolute linkage between diet and health. The healthier the food you eat is, the better chance your body has of fighting off such conditions as toenail fungus. Provide your body with its needed nutrients by consuming:
- foods rich in vitamin D and calcium, such as low-fat dairy products
- a diet rich in essential fatty acids
- enough iron for the prevention of brittle nails
- enough protein for the support of the regrowth torn or broken nails
- yogurt that contains rich probiotics
Your diet is essential in determining how your body deals with infections generally.
Home remedies for toenail fungus may be more effective than prescription medications. Although natural remedies typically have fewer side effects, few of them only have the necessary scientific evidence to back up their effectiveness. In addition, many factors are involved in treating toenail fungi, such as overall health, the severity of infection, and nail penetrability.
Home remedies may also take a longer time to heal toenail fungus as opposed to prescription medication or oral systemic antifungals. You may not see improvement in months, and it is common for the infection to recur.
Once you have gotten rid of the infection, maintain dry, well-trimmed, and clean toenails. Severe cases of toenail fungus may result in pain and irreversible toenail damage. If you try home remedies for toenail fungus and they do not work, or there is an uncomfortable side effect, then reach out to your doctor as soon as possible.
The information contained in this post "8 Simple Natural Remedies For Toenail Fungus" is for educational purposes only. Always consult your primary care doctor before using the remedies that are provided. The information is provided by The Hidden Cures and while we do timely, in-depth research on the information that we provide to you, everything stated may not be up to date or accurate from the time it was written.