Nail fungus, or onychomycosis, is a common skin condition where a fungus infects a part of the nail including the bed, matrix, or plate. Nail fungus can result in cosmetic concerns, pain, and discomfort as well as end up affecting your everyday activities. If it is a severe infection, it may cause permanent damage to your nails or may spread beyond your nails. If you know you have toenail fungus, you can follow a few simple steps to get rid of it and return your toenail to its former health.
Take oral medication. The most effective way to get rid of nail fungus is systemic treatment with oral prescription antifungals. Treatment with oral medications can take 2-3 months or longer. Oral antifungal prescription medications include Lamisil, which is usually prescribed with a dose of 250 mg a day for 12 weeks. Side effects can include rash, diarrhea, or liver enzyme abnormalities. This medication should not be used if you have liver or kidney issues.
- You can also try itraconazole (Sporanox), which is usually prescribed with a dose of 200 mg a day for 12 weeks. Side effects can include nausea, rash, or liver enzyme abnormalities. It should not be used if you have liver issues. Sporanox also has interactions with over 170 different drugs such as Vicodin and Prograf. Check with your doctor to ensure any medication you are taking does not interfere with it.
- Before getting any prescription, tell your doctor if you have liver disease, a history of depression, a weak immune system, or an autoimmune disorder. These medications may cause liver toxicity.
Try topical antifungal prescription medications. Topical medications are not recommended alone, but they can be used in addition to oral therapy to decrease the duration of your treatment. However, if you have reservations about oral therapy or are hesitant to start long-term oral therapy, topical medications are a good option.
- You can try Ciclopirox, which is an 8% solution is usually applied daily for 48 weeks.
- You can also try the more recent medication Jublia, which is a 10% solution that is also applied daily for 48 weeks.
- Topical prescriptions may be effective if the infection does not involve the nail matrix, the layer of cells at the base of the nail. Your doctor will let you know if your infection has expanded to include the nail matrix.
Talk to your doctor about surgical treatment. If you have a severe case of toenail fungus, you may need to have surgery to fix it. The options include partial or complete nail removal. After the infected nail is surgically removed, antifungal cream is applied to the area to prevent reinfection of the new nail.
- Total nail removal is not commonly needed.
Consider non-pharmacological, non-surgical treatment. These methods don’t require you to take drugs or get surgery. These include nail debridement, which is the removal of dead or infected tissue and trimming of the nail. This option is used for severe infections or for infections that cause abnormal growths.
- Generally doctors apply urea ointment and cover it with a dressing. This softens the nail over a period of 7-10 days after which the doctor can easily remove the diseased portion of the nail. It is usually a painless procedure.
Try laser treatment. Laser treatment options are available but are generally very costly. They use a high focus beam to eradicate the fungus in the affected area. It can take several treatments to clear the infection, which means you have to pay even more each time you go.
- This treatment is still largely experimental. Until further studies are conducted, laser treatment is not recommended for routine use.
Apply Vick’s VapoRub. You can get over the counter vapor rub from Vick’s to help your fungus. A study showed that daily application of Vick’s VapoRub for 48 weeks can be as effective as topical treatment options such as Ciclopirox 8% for nail fungus.To treat nail fungus with Vick’s VapoRub, first make sure your nail is clean and dry. Apply a small amount of Vick’s VapoRub on the affected area daily with your finger or a cotton swab, preferably at night. Continue treatment for up to 48 weeks.
- Your infection may go away before 48 weeks, but continue for a few weeks after signs of your infection go away to ensure it is cured.
Use tea tree oil. Tea tree oil is a natural anti-fungal. One study showed that tea tree oil may be effective for nail fungus. 18% of patients who used tea tree oil twice daily for 24 weeks were cleared of the infection. To treat nail fungus with tea tree oil, use a 100% solution because lower concentrations have not been proven to be effective for this particular infection.
- Make sure your nail is clean and dry before application. Apply a small amount tea tree oil solution with a cotton swab to affected area twice a day for up to 6 months.
Try snakeroot leaf extract. In a study that included 110 people, snakeroot extract was shown to be about as effective as topical treatment options. To use this method, apply the extract every third day for 4 weeks, twice a week for the next 4 weeks, then once a week for the next 4 weeks.
- Snakeroot leaf extract is not commonly available in the US. It is a traditional Mexican remedy and is more commonly found in Mexico.
Prevent future occurrences. There are many situations that make you more at risk for infection. You are at a higher risk if you are older, have diabetes, have an impaired immune system, or have poor circulation. If you are at high risk, you should take extra care to prevent infection. Preventative measures include wearing shoes or sandals when you are at damp public areas such as swimming pools or gyms, keeping your toenails clipped and clean, making sure your feet are dry, and drying your feet after you shower.
- You should wear clean, absorbent socks. Wool, nylon, and polypropylene are materials that help keep your feet dry. You should also change your socks often.
- You should discard old shoes after you get rid of your fungus. They can contain remnants of the fungi. You can also wear open toe shoes to help reduce humidity.
- Do not share nail clippers or tools used for manicures and pedicures. Choose nail salons carefully.
- Use antifungal powder or spray to help reduce your chances of infection.
- Avoid wearing nail polish or using artificial products on your nails. This can trap moisture and provide a damp area for fungus to grow.