What is toenail fungus?
Just like the name suggests, toenail fungus is a fungal infection affecting the toenails. Toenail fungus can also affect the fingernails, but it is more prevalent in toenails.
It involves the nails and starts with a yellow or white spot beneath the nails. The fungus spreads, and the area enlarges, causing the entire nail to discolor.
The nails tend to crumble on the edges, and several nails can be affected. Nail fungus always comes back even after treatment; however, the treatment remedies can eliminate at other times.
The nails thicken, crumble on the edges, making them appear ragged and distorted. They become discolored with a whitish color, and sometimes it leans towards a yellow-brown.
After some time, the debris that forms under the nails due to the thickening of the nails turns them a dark color. In severe cases, toenail fungus is very painful and can result in permanent nail damage.
With a suppressed immune system, the nails infection can cause other serious infections in the body. For fungi to thrive, the area must be moist, and warm making them increase.
Any fungi in the body can cause nail fungus, but toenails are affected more than fingernails because they are in warm, moist, and enclosed shoes.
The entire or part of the nail can be affected by the fungus. In severe cases, several nails might be affected, and some common signs of toenail fungus or infected nails include thickened nails, brittle nails, odor from the infected nails.
What causes toenail fungus?
People of all ages can be affected by toenail fungus, but they are more likely to affect older adults. The nails also age, which makes them dry out and become brittle and start cracking with age.
The fungus gets under the nails Toenail fungus is caused by organisms known as fungi. Some of the fungal organisms causing toenail fungus include yeast and mould.
However, dermatophytes are the main organisms that cause toenail fungus. The infections are unlikely to be contacted by another person, but they can be spread from the athlete’s foot to the toenails.
The legs can be damp due to sweating, and this increases the chances of infection.
Various fungal species can cause nail infections, and they include
Nail infections can be caused by candida yeast which affects fingernails more than toenails. In most cases, candida affects nails that have had an injury or an earlier illness.
People who work get in contact with water frequently or soak their hands in water are at a higher risk of candida infection on their hands than those who do not.
Candida infection starts with the cuticles around the nails and makes them swollen, tender to the touch, and red. Candida can cause the nail to fall entirely or partially lift off the nail bed.
Distal subungual infection
This infection affects the nail bed, under the nails, and the outline of the nail. It causes the nails to have a jagged appearance with yellow or white streaks on the nail. This is the most common type of nail infection to both fingernails and toenails.
Proximal subungual infection
This infection can be caused by a weakened immune system or any injury to the nail. It starts with a yellow or white spot under the nail which spreads upward. This type of infection is uncommon but can affect both fingernails and toenails.
White superficial infection
This infection is prone to toenails, and it causes the nails to have white spots, which cover the entire nail with time.
Risk factors for toenail infections
- A family with a history of athlete’s foot
- A weakened immune system
- Heavy sweating
- Old age- with old age, the blood flow reduces and thus makes the blood flowing to the toenails affect the growth of nails. As we age, the nail’s growth slows down, and they start to thicken.
- Exposure to fungi can lead to toenail fungus.
- Having diabetes and circulation problems can also increase the likelihood of toenail fungus.
- Being barefoot in damp communal areas such as shower rooms and swimming pools is another risk factor.
- Toenail fungus prevention measures
- Ensure that your shoes have breathable materials and do not fit too tight.
- Disinfect old shoes, powder them with antifungal powder or discard them.
- Skin injury around the nails and nail injury are risk factors for the fungus.
- Ensure that you wear socks that absorb sweat and do not reuse them without washing and drying them completely. In communal lockers, showers, and swimming pools, ensure that you have footwear.
- Ensure that your nail clippers are disinfected after use.
- Stop using nail polish and installing artificial nails.
- Ensure that your nail salon sterilizes manicure and pedicure tools for every customer.
- Ensure that your nails are trimmed straight across and filed on the edges as well as thickened areas.
- Ensure that the hands and feet are cleaned regularly.
- Moisturize hands and feet after washing.
- After touching infected nails, wash your hands with a disinfectant.
- See the doctor in case there is an abnormality in the nails or nail bed.
How to get rid of toenail fungus
There are many ways of taking care of toenail fungus to eliminate it. Some people prefer prescriptions, while others use home remedies.
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Toenail fungus home remedy/ Natural toenail fungus treatment
There are various methods that people in different regions of the world use to treat toenail fungus. Some of the most popular home remedies include snakeroot extract, Vicks VapoRub, oregano oil, tea tree oil, ozonized oils, olive leaf extracts, garlic, vinegar, and a Listerine mouthwash.
Garlic is believed to have antimicrobial and antifungal properties. Although fresh garlic is the best, garlic capsules are less smelly, and the doctor can prescribe them. Crushed garlic can be placed on the infected area daily for thirty minutes.
Use one-third of vinegar in two-thirds of warm water and soak the infected feet twenty minutes daily.
3) Oregano oil
Oregano oil contains thymol which has been argued to be effective against bacteria and fungi. Use a cotton swab to apply twice daily.
4) Snakeroot extract
The extract contains antifungal properties that have been tested on toenail fungus and have proven to be effective.
5) Olive leaf extract
Oleuropein has immune-boosting properties, antifungal, and antibacterial capabilities. Olive leaf extracts are better ingested as a capsule as it is more effective than a salve. However, the balm can be applied directly to the infected area.
6) Vicks VapoRub
This topical ointment is mostly used to relieve colds and for the suppression of coughs. However, camphor and eucalyptus, the active ingredients, can be used to treat toenail fungus.
7) Listerine mouthwash
Some of the ingredients in Listerine include eucalyptus, thymol, and menthol, and they are used to treat fungi and bacteria. This makes Listerine very popular in the treatment of toenail fungus.
What is the most effective treatment for toenail fungus?
Toenail fungus can be quite difficult to treat. The treatment can be combined, but it is very important to contact a doctor to give expert advice.
The methods used can be effective depending on the severity of the conditions and the type of fungus causing it. There is always a chance of repeat infection, although they can be healed completely.
When under treatment, toenail fungus takes months to produce a negative result. The nail condition improves, and depending on the risk factors, the disease can be eliminated or can prove difficult to treat.
Most people start treating the fungus using home remedies. While to some people, the methods work, to others, they do not, and they start taking over-the-counter medications.
If the condition does not improve, they visit the doctor, although it is crucial to see the doctor during the first appearance of the signs of toenail fungus.
The doctor can examine the condition of the nails and even take samples to the laboratory to identify whether it is toenail fungus and what type of fungus is causing it.
With the information, it is easier to treat the infection effectively. The doctor can make antifungal prescriptions taken orally or applied on the toes, fingers, and nails.
No single treatment method can be more effective than the others because it depends on the condition being treated. However, lunula most people claim lunula laser therapy is the most effective.
1) Oral antifungal drugs
The first choice of treatment prescribed by the doctors will be oral antifungal medication. The oral antifungals eliminate the infection faster than any other option. With the help of these drugs, a new nail free of fungi grows, replacing the old infected one.
This type of treatment goes from six weeks to twelve, but the results won’t be seen until a new nail grows back. A nail takes a year or more than a year to grow, and therefore the results will not be realized immediately.
Some of the oral antifungal prescriptions include fluconazole and terbinafine.
2) Medicated nail cream
An antifungal nail cream is prescribed, and sometimes it can be used in combination with the oral antifungal medication.
This treatment is most effective if the nails are filed and thinned first to ensure that the cream gets through the hard nails. The nails can be thinned using urea too, and then it is soaked before application.
3) Medicated nail polish
There is a medicated nail polish known as Penlac or Ciclopirox, and it is used as a prescription sometimes by doctors. This medication can be used for more than a year, with daily applications.
The nail polish is applied daily on the nails and the areas surrounding the nail, and after a week, it is wiped with an alcohol-based polish remover, and the process is repeated all over.
Some toenail fungus infections are very painful, and therefore, the doctor can advise that the nail is removed to relieve the pain.
In severe cases, the doctor can recommend removing the nail to apply an antifungal cream directly to the infected area. When the nail is removed, it grows back within a year or longer for older adults.
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Laser treatment for toenail fungus
Toenail fungus is a very persistent infection that might come even after going through treatment. Laser treatment uses light wavelengths.
The wavelengths should be in particular intensity so that no parts of the body being treated can be affected negatively.
The body’s healthy skin and other parts surrounding the nail are not affected, but the laser is directed to specific areas to clears all the fungi.
There are two types of laser treatment, and they include lunula laser therapy and PinPointe foot laser.
1) Lunula laser therapy
The lunula laser produces two beams of light, red and blue. They are rotated over the foot and infected nails. When the lunula laser penetrates the light beams, they react to form hydrogen peroxide in the cells.
The treatment is repeated severally over a week or a month, and it reduces the overall number of viable fungi within the nail.
Thus lunula laser therapy kills and reduces the number of fungi or eliminates them. It is an effective way of removing fungi and treating toenail fungus.
2) PinPointe Laser Treatment
PinPointe is less effective, and therefore it is usually used as a backup treatment method. This treatment involves using a YAG laser.
This laser heats the fungi on the nails hence causing damage to the fungal cells. The heat is directed to the nail, and sometimes it can become uncomfortable; however, whenever it becomes intolerable, it is stopped.
Toenail fungus can cause a lot of discomfort and pain, and therefore it is recommended to visit a doctor to receive diagnosis and treatment.
Changing lifestyle by exercising can help in the remedy of toenail fungus too. Adjusting the diet can help in including essential nutrients that the body requires to fight against infections and boost the immune system.
It is crucial to set an appointment with a doctor for the infection to be checked. A doctor is qualified to make lab tests which are very important in deciding which treatment method should be used.