Everyone who has witnessed it wants to know how to get rid of toenail fungus, and understandably so. Toenail fungus, also known as onychomycosis, appears on the toes of millions of people a year in the U.S. alone. Wherever a fungus can find the right conditions it will continue to grow and spread, sweaty footwear means this very often encompass the area under the toenail or in the skin between the toes. Luckily toenail fungus is curable if the right steps are taken. We will go over the symptoms, causes and a toenail fungus cure or two, as well as how to get rid of foot fungus in general using natural remedies.
Causes and Symptoms
What Causes Toenail Fungus?
A fungal nail infection is very common, affecting nearly 20% of the world’s population, and is caused by a fungus such as Dermatophytes or Candida getting a foothold on your skin. Certain conditions such as a weakened immune system or prolonged exposure to moisture will then help foster the growth of the fungus. Sweaty footwear, abnormal pH levels and a lack of proper hygiene can all attribute to the spreading of a fungus on your skin.
When the growth takes place under a finger or toenail, it may prove exceptionally difficult to remove due to the protection provided by the nail it lies under. The moisture under your nails also provides an ideal place for the fungus to take root, which is why these areas are some of the most commonly affected.
The sooner you begin treatment on a fungus, the sooner you will see improvement, but If you do not take proper care of fungal growth, even something as simple as a fingernail fungus may continue to grow and spread to other suitable locations on the body.
Is Toenail Fungus the Same as Athlete’s Foot?
Although there are many different names for fungal infections in various locations throughout the body, they all generally refer to the same medical issue. It doesn’t matter if there’s fungus on toes, fungus under toenails, or feet fungus since everything from Athlete’s foot to ringworm all refer to a fungal infection on a location of the body. So generally speaking, the only difference between Athlete’s Foot and toenail fungus is the area in which the fungus is spreading.
What are the Symptoms of Toenail Fungus?
A fungus that has found a home under your nails can go unnoticed for quite awhile as it is usually painless. In most cases, the nail may look thicker and discolored with a green-yellow tint, but the symptoms will stop there. Sometimes the infection may become worse. The skin may start to come away from the nail bed and leave behind white or yellow patches, sometimes the whole nail will become soft and crumbly and may even come away entirely. If left untreated, the infection may completely overtake the nail and the nail bed. If your toenail is the one affected, walking may become troublesome. Pain may come and go throughout the infection.
(The effects will change depending on the type of fungus that takes hold. These symptoms are reflective of the most common type.)
Preventing Fungal Nail Infections
If possible, you will want to reduce your risk of an infected toenail or fungal infection. You can reduce your risk by:
- Not sharing socks, towels or shoes with other people and make sure yours are washed regularly. Make sure the equipment at nail salons you visit is cleaned and properly sterilized as well.
- Keeping your hands and feet dry and wearing shoes and socks that allow your feet to “breathe” also, replace any old footwear that may be contaminated.
- Keep your nails short. Clip them with your personal pair of clippers.
- Wear ‘“shower shoes” in public. Avoid going barefoot in public pools, showers, and locker rooms.
- Treat Athlete’s foot as fast as possible to prevent the infection from spreading to your nails.
Treatments and Cures
Knowing how to get rid of toenail fungus is why you’ve found yourself here. There isn’t one easy answer on how to cure toenail fungus. Depending on the version and severity of the infection the optimum treatment can vary dramatically, ranging from doing nothing, to surgery. We will try and summarize the different options you have and when they should be used to give you a better idea of your situation.
The No Treatment Treatment.
Though this may sound strange, sometimes the best option may actually to do nothing. Many times a fungal infection may be mild and have no real symptoms to speak of. Other times, the patient may decide that the side effects of any cure may be greater than the initial problem itself.
Some things to consider before treating your fungal infection:
- The Antifungal medicines that are used for treatment need to be taken for months, sometimes even longer.
- Side effects caused by medications may include upset stomach, headaches, and skin rash.
- Cure rates for treatment are only about 60-80%
- Treatment can be postponed until the condition worsens.
Some symptoms, however, are good signs that you need a fungal nail infection treatment or toenail fungus medication. For example, if you have a compromised immune system due to cancer treatments or if the nail infection is likely to be the source of a fungal skin infection on your body, you should begin seeking treatment. Other times an infected nail may make movement uncomfortable and look unsightly and should be removed for the quality of life.
Natural Home Remedies For Toenail Fungus
As stated earlier, fungal nail infection treatments or medicine can have a number of side effects including trouble breathing, loss of appetite, fever, liver damage, weight gain, headaches, rashes, nausea, heart problems and diarrhea. When you see something like weight gain listed next to loss of appetite you know something is going wrong internally. Understandably many people are hesitant to take on these side effects in order to simply remove some fungus from their nail, so many take to using herbal medicines involving fruit and natural oils.
As long as you’re not allergic to these ingredients, they should all be side effect free. Home remedies for toenail fungus are worth a try, especially if you are wary of the modern fungal nail treatment.
1. Tea Tree Oil
Tea tree oil is a natural disinfectant that possesses fungicidal and antibacterial properties that make it very useful in treating toenail fungus. Tea tree oil applied twice a day to problem areas can relieve symptoms, and will very often cure the infection.
You can also place about 5 drops of tea tree oil in water and soak your feet around 15-20 minutes.
Both treatments should be done at both morning and evening.
2. Coconut Oil
Coconut oil is rich in medium-chain fatty acids and one of those, caprylic acid, has an antifungal property that helps to fight against certain types of fungi by penetrating the protective coating around the cell walls. Without the protective layer, the cells of the fungus will begin to dissolve. Coconut oil also contains lauric acid, which has antifungal, antibacterial and anti-inflammatory properties.
Apply a thin layer to infected areas and then let it dry naturally. Repeat 2 or 3 times a day until you are rid of nail fungus.
3. Baking Soda and Vinegar/Borax
Baking soda is a fungistatic, in that it prevents further growth of fungus by creating an uninhabitable environment, while the vinegar or borax kills the fungus itself. This is one of those natural remedies that use a nice one-two combo to knock your fungus problem out.
Baking Soda/Vinegar Soak:
Mix 4-5 tablespoons of baking soda with 1 cup of white vinegar and soak your feet for about 15 minutes. For better results, repeat multiple times in a row and do not add the baking soda until the second soak.
Baking Soda and Sodium Borate (Borax) Paste:
Sodium borate, like vinegar, is a very powerful fungicide. Mix equal amounts of borax powder with baking soda and water to create a sort of paste. Gently massage the mixture onto the infected area. Repeat twice daily.
4. Household Foods: Garlic, Yogurt, Lemon Juice, Onion
Garlic contains allicin, an antifungal property that can be used as an effective treatment.
Use 2 or 3 crushed up cloves mixed with olive oil and apply it on the affected area. Eating garlic cloves every day is also said to help by boosting your body’s natural resistances.
Yogurt is a probiotic, which means it will strengthen the body’s ability to kill the fungus. Yogurt should be used both internally and applied externally, which means both eat it and apply to your skin! Only use natural, unsweetened yogurt that contains live bacterial cultures. The sugary yogurt will more likely do more harm than good.
Lemon juice contains citric acid which aids in stopping the spread of bacterial and fungal infections. Apply fresh lemon juice directly onto the infected area for ten minutes and rinse with warm water. Repeat daily for one month.
For an onion, peel it and cut into slices. Simply rub one of the slices on the infected area. The antibacterial and antifungal qualities of an onion allow you to crush some up simply and leave it on the infected area as well.
5. Other Common Household Items: Vicks VapoRub, Listerine, Rubbing Alcohol
To treat toenail fungus with Vicks VapoRub dry out the infected area and cover the toenail with the rub. Cover in gauze. Repeat daily. Can take ten to six weeks to recover. Since it is the Thyme in the rub that does all the work, you can alternatively purchase just Thyme oil and conduct a similar process.
Listerine is a potent antibacterial agent. Soaking an infected nail in Listerine or mixed 50/50 with white vinegar is a common remedy for toenail fungus. It will take multiple months for toenails to grow out and heal this way completely, but is a cheap and simple alternative.
Rubbing Alcohol will have many of the same effects as other treatments and will dry out the skin, preventing and killing the invading fungus. The alcohol, however, is not always effective against fungus spores. For the spores try mixing in or apply a second treatment of vinegar. Either way, soak your feet in a bath of roughly 70% rubbing alcohol.
Medications and Surgical Procedures
Sometimes natural home remedies will not do the trick for one reason or another. If nothing seems to be working for you, there are still a few options available ranging from simple creams to surgical procedures.
Over-The-Counter Creams and Ointments.
A doctor may prescribe you an antifungal cream, which you simply apply to the infected areas. Some over the counter solutions are available and vary quite a bit in their strength. Sometimes these may be one of your only options if a fungal infection is a unique type or strength.
Medicated Nail Polish.
An antifungal nail polish is painted on the infected nails and surrounding area once a day. After a week, you remove layers with alcohol and apply fresh coats. Keep in mind; this may take up to a year of daily use.
Surgical and Other Procedures
If your infection is causing you considerable amounts of pain or doesn’t seem to be affected by any treatments, a doctor may suggest removing the nail (a new nail will usually slowly grow in its place). This is usually a last resort and may be done in either a clinic or your doctor’s office. The surgery wound should heal within a few weeks. If removed, fingernails can take 6 months to grow back, and toenails can take 12 to 18 months to grow back.
Experimental laser and light-based therapies may be available but are expensive and not often covered by insurance. Please consult your health care professional for expert advice on the subject.