At one time, toenail fungus was thought of as a nuisance infection that only affected a few. Now it’s known to cause discomfort and embarrassment for up to 25% of North Americans. With a correct diagnosis and the use of effective, though expensive, oral antifungal agents, you can cure toenail fungus in up to 90% of cases.
The majority of toenail fungus comes from an extended bout with athlete’s foot. Commonly, the fungus migrates under the toenail, causing an infection that causes discoloration and scaling that distorts the nail. The toenail can become brittle and crumble, making activity painful.
Fitness enthusiasts are particularly at risk because sweaty feet and walking barefoot in locker rooms and around swimming pools can lead to infection.
Your doctor needs to document the fungal infection by scraping a sample from underneath the surface of the crumbly nail and sending it to a lab for testing. If that test is negative, the doctor may order a nail culture, testing a piece of the toenail to distinguish the type of fungus.
It takes a full month for skin cells to turn over, and that’s why athlete’s foot treatments generally take about one month of an antifungal cream. Toenail fungus treatment generally takes longer, at least three months of an oral antifungal, which can cost up to $1,000.
In the gym, locker room and swimming pool, wear rubber flip-flops. When you work out, wear polypropylene socks under white cotton socks to wick moisture away from the skin. Foot powders can absorb moisture and keep your skin clean and dry.
There are countless folk cures for toenail fungus. None has been proven to work. Some are even dangerous. Vinegar soaks are probably not harmful, but don’t waste your time trying to cure the toenail fungus with them.
Prescription medicines, however, do work for toenail fungus. Oral Lamisil (terbinafine) and oral Sporanox (itraconazole) must be taken for three months. Both infiltrate the nail. Results aren’t seen until much later, since it takes a full year to a year and a half for a toenail to grow from the base to its tip. Both these medicines have the potential for liver damage, so tests of liver function are performed while they’re being taken. The medicines are stopped if there is any sign of liver involvement so permanent damage can be avoided.
Please note that Lamisil also comes as a cream and an ointment, and the liver warning does not apply to those preparations.
Griseofulvin is another oral medicine that has a credible record for treating toenail fungus.
Penlac nail lacquer is a liquid applied directly to the nail daily for a full year. It can often cure toenail fungus. All of these medicines are relatively expensive. You need confirmation that the changes you see in the nail are due to a fungal infection. There are look-alike conditions – trauma to the nail, nail psoriasis and eczema. Your doctor can provide that confirmation and tips on how to cure toenail fungus.