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How to Treat Toe Nail Fungus
If you’ve noticed a change in your nails, such as hardening, thickening, or discoloration (yellowing of the nails), you might have toenail fungus. Don’t worry, this is usually not a serious issue. You have plenty of options to get rid of the fungus. Start with at-home options, such as an over the counter (OTC) medication or natural remedy. If the problem persists, your doctor should be able to offer you some other treatment options. Once you’re fungus-free, take steps to prevent it from coming back.
Using at Home Treatment Methods
Trim your nails so that an anti-fungal treatment can penetrate the nail.You might be able to get rid of some of the fungus just by cutting your nails. Even if you can’t remove most of it with clippers, you can thin out the nail so that the anti-fungal treatment you choose can get deep into your nail. This will help it fight the fungus.
- If you usually keep your toenails on the longer side, consider keeping them pretty short while you’re trying to get rid of fungus.
File off white markings on your nails, if present.By filing off white marks, you are removing an additional barrier to the nail. Take time to file so that your topical treatment can reach the actual fungus. Use an Emory board to file off any ragged edges or colored markings on your nail. Try to make your strokes small and precise to shave off as much of the infected nail as you can; filing down your nail can actually make the topical treatment more effective.
- File your toenails once a week, or more if you notice ragged edges.
- Treat yourself to a professional pedicure. Your nails will look great and you'll feel nice and relaxed!
Apply an over the counter anti-fungal treatment.You can purchase a variety of OTC treatments at your local pharmacy. Both ointments and creams work well; just pick whichever formula you like best. Follow the directions on the package for applying the cream. Make sure to keep applying it for as long as the directions specify, even if the fungus appears to be gone.
- If you’re not sure which product is right for you, ask the pharmacist or your doctor for a recommendation.
- If an OTC product is too pricey, you can use Vick's VapoRub as an inexpensive alternative. Apply a small amount to the affected nail twice a day. It's most effective if you do this after a shower so that your toes are already nice and clean. It might take 3-4 months to see results.
Soak nails in vinegar once a day for a natural remedy.If you prefer not to use medicine, you can try to get rid of the fungus by using basic vinegar. Fill a bowl with warm water and white vinegar. Use a ratio of 2-1 for water to vinegar.
- Keep your feet in this solution for 20 minutes, then rinse with plain water. You can do this daily for the best results.
- There is no medical evidence that suggests this works, but many people claim that vinegar helps clear up their fungus. There’s no harm in trying this one.
Apply garlic to the fungus if you don’t want to use medicine.Many people swear by the healing powers of garlic, even if it’s not proven by medical science. There’s no harm in trying, so grab some garlic from the kitchen to rub on your toes. Simply chop up a clove and apply it directly to your affected nail.
- Keep the garlic on the nail for 30 minutes. If you feel any discomfort, remove the garlic immediately and wash your feet with soap and water.
Use several drops of tea tree oil as a natural remedy.Tea tree oil is known for its astringent properties, which can help clear up fungus. Apply undiluted tea tree oil to your infected nail twice a day for 6 months. Dampen a cotton ball with the oil and wipe that on your nail. Make sure your feet are clean and dry before using the oil.
- You can purchase tea tree oil online or at any store that sells healthy lifestyle products.
Seeking Medical Attention
Make an appointment with your doctor and tell them your concerns.If your fungus doesn’t go away within a couple of weeks, or if it is causing discomfort, it’s time to call your doctor. Start by calling your general practitioner. If they don’t think they can help you, they will immediately refer you to a podiatrist or other specialist.
- See a doctor right away if you have diabetes and develop a fungus. Complications can arise.
Allow your doctor to examine your toenails.Your doctor might simply look at your nails and touch them to get a sense of what is going on. They might also take some clippings or your nails, or scrape some tissue from under your nail. Don’t worry, this won’t hurt.
- Your doctor might send the clippings or scrapings to a lab to confirm your diagnosis and find out what kind of fungus you are dealing with.
- Ask questions about what might be causing the condition, how it could impact your overall health, and if there are any alternative treatments.
Discuss medication options with your doctor.If OTC treatments haven’t worked, your doctor will likely recommend trying a prescription medication. There are several varieties, including:
- Oral antifungal drugs, like terbinafine and itraconazole. These are most common because they are most effective. Typically, you will take a pill for 12 weeks to clear up toenail fungus. For example, you could take itraconazole continuously or pulse cycle therapy over the course of 12 weeks. Ask your doctor about common side effects.
- Medicated nail polish, such as ciclopirox (Penlac) is less effective than oral medication, but it may work for a mild to moderate infection. Your doctor might suggest this if oral medication is not right for you. You’ll typically paint your nail with the polish for 7 days, building up layers. Then, you’ll file off the layers after 7 days of applying them and start over again. This treatment lasts 48 weeks, but you will avoid the systemic side effects that would come along with taking an oral medication.
- Medicated nail cream. This is simple to use and is most effective if you soak your nails first. Follow all of the directions your doctor gives you, and use for as long as they suggest.
Get the nail removed, if necessary.If you have a particularly stubborn or worrisome fungus, it might not respond well to medication. Your doctor might suggest removal of the nail. This procedure will take place in the doctor’s office.
- If you’re worried about losing a nail, talk to your doctor about alternatives.
Preventing Toenail Fungus
Treat any underlying health conditions.A variety of fungal organisms cause toenail fungus, and they are most common in older adults. Although anyone can contract a fungal infection, there are some factors that increase risk. If you have diabetes or circulation issues, talk to your doctor about your treatment plan. It is more difficult to get rid of fungus if you don't have other medical issues under control.
- Keep in mind that advanced age, smoking, poor circulation, and immunosuppression may result in developing toenail fungus.
- It is uncommon for preadolescent children to get toenail fungus, but a family member with toenail fungus poses a risk to other family members.
- It is more difficult to get rid of fungus if you don't have other medical issues under control. Closely follow your doctor's instructions about diet and taking medications like insulin, if necessary.
Buy shower shoes to wear in public locker rooms.The locker room at your pool or gym is a breeding ground for germs. Invest in some plastic or rubber sandals to keep your feet safe in this damp atmosphere. You can get these online or at any box store or pharmacy. Wear them in public places where you shower or change clothing.
- Wash your shower shoes with soap and water once a week so that they don't carry any fungus organisms.
Wash and moisturize your feet daily.Keeping your feet clean and soft is a great way to prevent toenail fungus. Take care to wash your feet thoroughly at least once a day with soap and warm water. Dry your feet thoroughly, and then apply moisturizer.
- Wash your feet more frequently if you sweat a lot or if your feet are damp for other reasons, such as walking in the rain.
Keep your shoes and socks as dry as possible.Since fungus thrives in damp environments, you want to stay dry. Choose socks that are made from moisture-wicking materials. Select shoes made from breathable material, like nylon.
- Keep an extra pair of socks with you if there’s a chance you might get caught walking in the rain.
- Try sprinkling baking soda in your shoes to soak up any extra moisture.
QuestionWhat do I do if my toenails are turning blue?wikiHow Staff EditorStaff AnswerSee your doctor immediately. This could indicate circulation problems. Schedule an appointment.Thanks!
QuestionWill a removed toenail grow back?wikiHow Staff EditorStaff AnswerTypically, but it could take a year or more. Ask your doctor about your particular case.Thanks!
QuestionCan you use Clorox in toe nails?wikiHow Staff EditorStaff AnswerNo, that is not a good idea. Bleach and chemicals can harm your skin. Avoid using harsh chemicals.Thanks!
QuestionCan nail polish be used to treat the fungus?wikiHow ContributorCommunity AnswerNo. Do not treat it with nail polish. Polish does not help get rid of nail fungus.Thanks!
QuestionHow do I get rid of stinky feet?wikiHow ContributorCommunity AnswerThanks!
QuestionHow do I get my nail to grow again?wikiHow ContributorCommunity AnswerTo start, see your doctor so that they can ensure all of the damaged nail has been properly removed (if necessary). After that, the only thing you can do is wait. Keep the nail clean and undamaged until it regrows. The uncovered nail bed can be covered with petroleum jelly or neomycin ointment and dressed with a clean bandage.Thanks!
QuestionWhat would make my thumb nail suddenly start growing a new nail with no injury?wikiHow ContributorCommunity AnswerYou'll just have to leave it alone and make sure it doesn't get an infection.Thanks!
QuestionHow do I promote toenail growth? I have had pedicures and the dead area of the toenail removed but it seems the nail will not grow back.William GriesselCommunity AnswerAssuming you are free of any fungus, use vitamin E oil (I use gel pills) - gently puncture the vitamin E capsule with a needle and gently rub it into your toes. It may also improve your circulation.Thanks!
QuestionHow do I tell what kind of toenail fungus I have?wikiHow ContributorCommunity AnswerYou should consult a doctor for the most precise answer for what kind you have.Thanks!
QuestionI left nail polish on my toes for too long, and now one of my toes has a black stain. Can I use these remedies above to treat it?wikiHow ContributorCommunity AnswerA black stain on your toenail would probably be a sign of an injury of some sort, unless you were using black nail polish. If it doesn't go away in a couple of weeks, it would be best to get your doctor's opinion.Thanks!
- If you go to a nail salon, make sure that they sterilize their tools.
- Consider not polishing your toenails. That will make it easier to see fungus right when it starts.
- If you choose to live with toenail fungus, as many people do, you can hide it by filing down the nail and covering it with toenail polish.
Sources and Citations
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