Toenail fungus, also known as onychomycosis, is a condition in which the toenail turns yellow or brown in color. The change of color and presence of a distinct foul odor is caused by the presence of a fungi, feeding off the protein, known as keratin, in the toenail. The infection caused by the parasitic fungi might even lead to pain and discomfort while walking or standing for long hours. Toenail fungus usually affects the thumb toenail and little toe nail, as they are the ones that suffer maximum friction against shoes and socks throughout the day. If left untreated for a long period of time, the toenail fungus can spread to the other toes and cause unbearable pain which might require oral medication or nail removal to solve the issue.
What Causes Toenail Fungus?
Toenail fungus usually occurs as a result of overgrowth of fungus on, under, or in the toenail. Occurrence of fungus on toenails is more common as compared to fingernails, as toenails stay wrapped and trapped inside shoes for long hours. Dark, damp, and moisture-ridden atmosphere are thriving spots for all kinds of fungi, and the same rule applies to toenail fungus as well. Apart from overgrowths, you might also contract toenail fungus if you ever come in contact with an infected individual. People who go for manicures and pedicures in salons, should especially be particular about asking if the emery boards and other tools have been sanitized and how frequently are they sanitized. It is usual to catch the fungal infection from infected tools, or in shared locker/shower areas where the atmosphere is generally damp and warm, giving fungal infection just what it needs to thrive.
How to Spot Toenail Fungus?
It is somewhat easy to spot a toenail fungus if you keep a lookout for this telltale signs:
- Distorted toenail that is somewhat detached from the nail bed
- Thickened toenail
- Brittle toenail
- Foul odor coming off from the infected nail
- Scaling nails
- Yellow or white streaks on the nail bed
- Yellow spots on the nail, especially at the bottom
- Loss of nail
However, other infections might mimic these symptoms but might not be an actual fungal infection. In order to confirm if it really is a fungal infection, your doctor might scrape a bit of your nail or trim it and send it to the lab for further analysis and identification.
How to Fix Toenail Fungus?
There are a number of remedies to this annoying ailment. Toenail fungus might not be painful at first, however, it can be really unsightly due to the yellow patches and crumbing texture of the toenail. If not attended at an early stage, toenail fungus can spread to the adjacent toes and might even infect people who might come in close contact with you.
There are a number of topical antifungal preparations available easily over the counter that can help cure mild toenail fungal infections. However, these applications generally work only on the surface level and are unable to penetrate into the nailbed lying under. Filing the nailbed before applying these ointments can help in better absorption and healing. Most of these topical preparations come in bottles with brushes which look like a regular nail paint. They are easy to apply and also improve the appearance of the infected toenail.
When the toenail fungus has already taken a turn for the worse and is diagnosed at a moderate to severe level, then your doctor might prescribe prescription topical medication such as efinaconazole and tavaborole, or oral medication such as itraconazole and terbinafine. Certain amount of precaution needs to be taken when taking oral medications to fight fungal infections as they might damage the liver in the long run. It is important that you talk to your doctor about any chronic illnesses you might be suffering from (diabetes, vasculitis, chronic immune disorders) and inform them about any medication that you currently take on a daily basis to ensure the antifungal medicine does not counteract with them. Also, it is advisable to undergo liver enzyme tests before beginning the treatment and again after every 4-6 weeks of treatment to ensure the medicines are not irritating the liver lining and are safe to be continued. If a spike in liver enzymes is observed in these tests, then you might need to discontinue taking the oral medicines and find out a treatment plan which is more liver-friendly, with lesser side effects.
Fortunately, there are a number of home remedies that can help heal toenail fungus by following some simple instructions. One of the most common treatment is using a common household item: bleach. Bleach is known to kill all kinds of viruses, bacteria, and fungi, and that is why it is used to clean floors and do laundry at hospitals, too, where these unwanted elements are found galore. Bleach makes for an effective remedy to get rid of toenail fungus, as it not only kills the fungus but also removes the possibility of persistent infection.
Here’s How It Works:
Mix one cup of household bleach in ten cups of warm water and soak the affected toenails in the mixture for no more than three minutes. Once the time set is over, wash your feet with water and dry them thoroughly. You will need to do this twice a week, with at least three days gap in between the two treatment days. The bleach solution should help heal the fungal infection in 2-3 months. More severe cases of toenail fungus will require longer to heal completely.
It is imperative to follow the instructions to the point as prolonged exposure to bleach or a strong bleach solution will do more harm than good, as it may lead to burning pains in the skin exposed to the solution. It is also important to note that only household bleach is used for this treatment as it contains only 3%-6% of NaOCl (sodium hypochlorite) while industrial strength bleach has around 10%-12% NaOCl in it, making it unfit for use in treatment.
The typical natural treatment for toenail fungus is applying tea tree oil, oregano oil or garlic oil to the affected toenail, as their antifungal properties helps in eliminating mild cases of toenail fungus.
Best Natural Toenail Fungus Treatment – Tea Tree Oil Foot Soak with Epsom Salt
While bleach does an excellent job at treating mild to severe fungal infections, home remedies and essential oils like tea tree oil can work wonders, too, when it comes to healing fungal infections sans any side effects. This Tea Tree Oil Foot Soak contains Epsom salt which is a naturally known muscle relaxant and also contains six additional essential oils such as tea tree oil, eucalyptus, rosemary, spearmint, peppermint, and chamomile, that are known for their antifungal and antibacterial properties. This foot soak has been used by affected people and athletes around the globe to relax tired feet while fighting fungal infections at the same time.
Can Toenail Fungus Lead to Any Other Issues in the Future?
Toenail fungus might look like a superficial cosmetic issue, however, if it goes untreated for a long time, the infection might become widespread and lead to more serious skin conditions such as athlete’s foot or jock’s itch. Leaving toenail fungus unattended for a long period of time can lead the nail to become misshapen, yellow and gnarly and might even lead to loss of the nail. For people suffering from chronic ailments such as diabetes and weak immune system, the fungus can lead to serious condition if it manages to slip through skin cracks or cuts which is fairly common with people suffering from diabetes and chronic immunity issues. If the bacteria/fungus finds its way into the body, it might lead to cellulitis. In severe cases of this ailment, bacteria might enter the bloodstream and might lead to life threatening conditions.
How Can You Prevent Toenail Fungus?
Ensuring a clean, hygienic, and healthy lifestyle with good eating habits and by following the below-mentioned points can help prevent toenail fungus.
- Use antifungal powders and sprays regularly
- Wash your hands thoroughly, every time you touch the infected toenails
- Dry your feet and toes well, post showers
- Ensure the tools are properly washed and disinfected when you go for manicures and pedicures at salons
- Preferably, use your own tools for manicures and pedicures
- Wear breathable socks which don’t trap heat and moisture from sweat for long hours
- Avoid walking barefoot in public places
- Avoid using nail polish and artificial nails, as they trap moisture and providing breeding ground for fungus to thrive
Although fairly common, toenail fungus can be menace for people suffering from it for a long time. The pain and complications associated with it can make functioning normally in your everyday life difficult. It is therefore recommended to take quick action and start following some of the easy to follow home remedies to begin with. Using household bleach to treat toenail fungus has been a widely used method which has given proven results, as well. It is important that you follow the instructions properly when trying to rid yourself of toenail fungus using household bleach to avoid side effects like burning sensation on bleach-exposed skin due to long exposure. If you are suffering from moderate to severe fungal infection, it is advisable that you see a doctor who might put you on prescription medicine to hasten recovery. Recovery from toenail fungus, however, does not guarantee complete healing as there may be chances of relapse. Therefore, it is recommended that you take care and stick to the above-mentioned points to ensure healthy and happy feet.