Honestly, no one really wants to admit they have a problem with toenail fungus. It’s just so embarrassing, and you feel like it means you’re unclean. But the fact is that fungal toenail infections can happen to anyone at any time simply by walking around barefooted. Whether it’s walking in the mud in the creek or playing in the pool at the Y, your skin and nails are exposed to infectious fungi without you even realizing it.
Toenail fungus is an unsightly condition, and it’s quite the bummer during the summer months if your nails discolored and irregular. Medical treatments and home remedies for toenail fungus can take several months to completely rid your nail of infection. So it’s vitally important to recognize the symptoms of infection and begin treatment early on before it gets out of control.
Toenail fungus is not a fun situation to experience, but it does occur more often than you realize. In some areas of the world, as much as 24% of the population is affected by onychomycosis – the scientific name for fungal nail infection. This fungal infection can affect your fingernails or toenails, but today I’m going to discuss toenail fungus as it’s the more frequently occurring nail fungus.
What causes toenail fungus
Fungal infections of the nail are caused by many fungal species that exist in our environment. The most common toenail fungus is a dermatophyte species, but yeast and mold can also infect your nails.
How your nails get exposed to nail fungus
Fungus thrives in hot, moist environments. Many people are exposed to the causative agent of toenail fungus by walking barefoot in public areas such as nail salons, gym showers, and swimming pools. The fungus that causes athlete’s foot can also spread to your toenails if left untreated.
Toenails that are damaged are more likely to become infected, and wearing shoes that constrict your feet and hold in heat and moisture make infection more likely. Certain autoimmune diseases, immune-suppressing medications, and health conditions like diabetes can also make your toenails more susceptible to fungal infection.
How to Know if you Have Toenail Fungus
Toenail fungus is easy to notice on unpainted nails. Early on in the course of infection, you first notice some discoloration of your toenail. The discoloration may start out white but eventually begins to turn a yellow/brown color or even black as the fungus goes untreated. Brittle, cracking, or thickened toenails are also a common symptom of toenail fungus.
Left untreated, it can feel as if you have an ingrown toenail or some form of growth underneath that toenail. In more extreme situations where toenail fungus has gone untreated, you may notice that the toenail is pulling away from the nail bed. It’s important to start treating toenail fungus as soon as you notice the first symptom as it can be very difficult to rid yourself completely of this infection.
Home Remedies To Treat Toenail Fungus
Oral antifungals are commonly prescribed to treat toenail fungus, but these medications can be expensive and have unpleasant side effects. Fortunately, there are many over the counter options to help reduce or eliminate the impact of toenail fungus in your life. It’s better to start treatment early in the course of disease to help keep the fungus from spreading.
If you have noticed a change in coloration, appearance or any of the other signs I referenced above, then it’s a good time to try a home remedy to cure toenail fungus. Below you will find the most common home remedies that are said to work wonders to cure toenail fungus in the comfort of your own home.
The first thing you should do is clip away as much of the affected toenails as possible. Be careful not to clip so much that it causes pain or bleeding. Then wash and dry your feet and toes very well. Make sure to clean and disinfect your shower, shoes, and nail clipper. Then try one of the following home treatments.
Over-the-counter medications that treat toenail fungus
Antifungal creams, powders, and sprays
There are several over the counter antifungal medications that can help reduce or prevent foot and toenail fungal infections. Apply toenail fungus cream or spray twice daily to your feet and spray your socks and shoes as well.
Vicks VapoRub May Treat Toenail Fungus
This well-known product that many uses to alleviate congestion is actually a good home remedy to rid toenail fungus. The thymol, menthol, camphor, and eucalyptus oil in this cream can help treat toenail fungus. Simply apply a small amount of Vicks Vapor Rub to the affected area once per day until the fungus has disappeared.
Essential oils for toenail fungus
Tea Tree Oil
Many people have had great results using tea tree oil for toenail fungus. It is one of the most popular natural remedies for fungal infections due to its antiseptic and antifungal properties. It has a strong odor that some find unpleasant, but tea tree essential oil has been shown to be as effective as antifungal medications. Using a cotton swab, apply tea tree oil to the infected toenail twice a day until the fungus is gone.
This ancient herb is well-known for its antifungal and antimicrobial properties. This is a great essential oil to apply alone or mix with a sunflower oil home remedy listed below. Take a cotton swab and apply oregano oil to the affected nail several times a day to rid yourself of toenail fungus.
Lavender Essential Oil
A good treatment option for mild toenail fungus is using lavender essential oil. Place a few drops of this sweet smelling essential oil on the infected toenail before bed. Place a soft sock over your foot for protection and let the oil work while you sleep.
Thyme is another essential oil that has been shown to be effective at inhibiting fungal growth. Like other oils, a few drops on the nail daily can help you get rid of toenail fungus.
In one study, topical application of snakeroot extract was as effective as ciclopirox (an antifungal in medicated creams) for treating toenail fungus in their study of 96 patients. Snakeroot is a native plant in Mexico and has been traditionally used for many medical treatments including onychomycosis. To use, apply a product containing extract from the Ageratina plant topically to the affected areas until healed.
Common household items that treat toenail fungus
Olive or Sunflower Oil
Ozonated oils such as olive oil or sunflower oil have been known for centuries for their ability to make fungus, yeast, and bacteria inactive. Either oil will work fine, but sunflower oil has been known to work best. Simply work the oil into your nail twice per day to rid yourself of toenail fungus.
Coconut oil has many uses outside of the kitchen. Studies have shown that coconut oil does inhibit the growth of fungal species. To treat fungal toenail infections, apply coconut oil alone or with a few drops of the recommended essential oils on your feet twice daily.
While there’s no proof that this works, many swear by a vinegar soak as a home remedy to get rid of toenail fungus. Mix one part vinegar with two parts warm water. Allow the infected toenail to soak for 20 minutes daily to get rid of toenail fungus. Drinking apple cider vinegar can also help to improve your overall health and speed healing.
Bleach for toenail fungus – use caution
There are some who claim that soaking your feet in a bleach solution can help treat toenail fungal infections. But be aware that the bleach must be diluted or you risk causing damage to your skin and possibly even your airway and lungs. If you choose to try this option, try this recipe from Ohio State University.
Proactive Changes and When to Call Your Doctor
You can make some dietary and lifestyle changes to be proactive in your measures to deter toenail fungus from occurring again. Eating a probiotic-rich diet with yogurts, getting enough protein for healthy nail growth and eating foods rich in calcium will help deter toenail fungus from occurring.
Each of these home remedies is a great option to try when your toenail fungus symptoms aren’t extreme. If symptoms persist or the pain is far too substantial, you’ll want to be sure to seek medical assistance. If you have diabetes or a weakened immune system, you’ll want to be sure to consult with a doctor so the fungus doesn’t cause other issues.
Whatever you decide to do about your nail fungus, don’t be embarrassed.
Ugly, funky toenails are just one of those things that happens to us all sometimes. You can start using these home remedies as soon as you see evidence of infection, but be patient. It can take 6-12 months for the infected toenail to grow out and the signs of infection to disappear.
This post is not intended to diagnose or treat any medical illness. Always consult your physician before starting any new treatment.