Toenail fungus, or onychomycosis, is the most common cause of thickening and discoloration of the toenails. Onychomycosis tends to be slowly progressive, damaging the nail to a greater and greater degree over time. The infection usually starts at the tip of the nail and works it’s way back to the root of the nail. Onychomycosis usually is not painful and often goes unnoticed until it has become well established. Over time, the nail becomes thickened, crumbly, and distorted in appearance.
Onychomycosis is typically seen on feet that are prone to athlete’s foot or a fungal infection of the skin. Sweaty feet often contribute to this initial infection as fungus prefers an environment that is moist, dark, and warm.
What we can do to help you with this condition
Topical treatments can sometimes be effective for mild cases of onychomycosis. We carry a topical medication in our office called ClearNail. This medication has 3 different prescription-strength antifungal ingredients to fight your nail infection. There are also newer prescription topical medications such as Jublia or Kerydin available.
Often, the most effective treatment option for onychomycosis is to take a prescripton oral medication, Lamisil (Terbinafine). This medication will treat the fungal infection in the nail bed where the fungus is most active. Lamisil is typically taken for a total of 3 months to allow a healthier toenail to become established. It is usually necessary to have lab work performed prior to taking Lamisil.
Sometimes fungal nails can become too thick or deformed for treatment with topical or oral medications. In cases like this, it may be necessary to permanently remove the nail.
You may also have an associated chronic form of athlete’s foot if your skin is very thick and dry. It is important to treat your skin as this can be an underlying cause of your onychomycosis. It may be necessary to also use topical urea cream to help to soften the skin and to use an antifungal cream.
Try to wear cotton-blend socks and avoid nylons. Cotton-blend breathes well and helps to absorb sweat away from your skin. Sweat can be a contributor to onychomycosis.
Try not to wear toenail polish. Wearing polish seems to damage the nail and may prevent the nail from getting the air that it needs. Damage to the nail encourages a fungal infection to form.
It is important to treat your shoes to kill any fungus that may be contributing to your onychomycosis. We carry a shoe spray in our office that contains Silver - a safe antibacterial/antifungal medication.
Consider going on a low sugar diet. Fungus needs sugar to thrive and many suspect that fungal infections are much more common in people that consume excessive sugar.
Consider a Candida cleanse. Candida is a natural fungus/yeast that is found in your large intestine. But, consuming excessive sugar over many years can contribute to Candida overgrowth which in simple terms, prevents your body’s ability to fight off fungal infections. Places such as Walgreens or the Vitamin Shoppe sell Candida cleanses.
Vinegar and tannic acid (found in tea) have antifungal properties. Consider soaking your feet once or twice a day in a basin of water containing one or both of these.