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A Guide to Recognizing and Treating Toenail Fungus

Dr. Eman Elmi
August 29, 2023
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Toenail fungus: it can appear suddenly, and once it’s there, it can be difficult to remove. Thankfully, if you can recognize the signs, there are several treatment options available. In this guide, you’ll learn how to recognize and treat toenail fungus.

How to Get Rid of Toenail Fungus

How to get rid of toenail fungus can be a prolonged process and sometimes can be handled with home treatments. If an infection is not responding (or is worsening), it may be time to schedule an appointment with your healthcare provider.

Individual treatments can depend based on the infection’s severity and the type of fungus causing the infection. Sometimes it may take months to see results, and repeat infections can occur.

In more severe cases, surgery may be required to remove the nail entirely. This can expose the roots of the fungus and allow direct application of antifungal treatments. However, most cases rarely develop to the point of spread or intensity where surgery is necessary.

The best treatments for toenail fungus are nonprescription antifungal topical ointments, commonly available in most pharmacies. There are several popular home remedies to treat nail fungus, including eucalyptus, tea tree oil, and oregano oil. Home remedies, however, have limited clinical data backing their efficiency, so your results may vary.

Toenail Fungus Symptoms

Nail fungus can affect either finger or toenails, but toenail fungus is the more common of the two. If your nail is thickened, discolored, brittle, misshapen, separated from the nailbed, or smelly, you may have an underlying fungal infection.

If the nail increases in discoloration, thickening, or becoming more misshapen, you may need to visit your healthcare provider. If you have problems like bleeding around the nails or difficulty walking, you may also want to make an appointment. This is especially true if you have diabetes, which can further complicate the infection.

Likewise, if home treatment options do not reduce any of these problems, your provider may be able to prescribe more powerful ones.

Fungal Nail Treatment

If an over-the-counter fungal nail treatment doesn’t do the job, there are several more stringent substances for treating toenail fungus.

Oral Antifungal

Oral antifungal treatments are usually the first choice for providers. These drugs help new nails grow free of infection, gradually replacing infected portions.

These antifungal drugs are typically taken daily for 6 to 12 weeks. However, it may take 4 months or longer to eliminate the infection. Also, treatment success rates appear to be lower in adults over the age of 65.

Some side effects associated with oral antifungal drugs include rash and liver damage. Some may also interfere with other prescriptions. So, if you have liver disease, congestive heart failure, or are taking several medications, your doctor may recommend another option.

Medicated Nail Polish

The most common medicated nail market on the market is made with a chemical called Ciclopirox (often available under the brand name Penlac). Like cosmetic nail polish, you paint the infected nail and the skin surrounding it daily.

After seven days, the piled-on layers are wiped clean with alcohol, and fresh applications can be given. This treatment may be required for a year or longer, depending on the infection.

Medicated Nail Cream

Medicated topical nail creams are a way to directly address the infection at the source. After soaking, you rub the cream into the infected nails. You may be required to thin the nails first to give it the best action and deepest penetration. This can be done at home using nonprescription lotions or by your provider using a file or other tool.

The most common side effect associated with creams like these is rashes.

Get Your Toenail Fungus Treated at Diablo Foot and Ankle

Treating toenail fungus can begin at home, but you don’t need to handle the burden entirely on your own. If you have any questions or haven’t seen results over time, it may be time to get a professional assessment.

Diablo Foot and Ankle’s Board-Certified Foot and Ankle specialists have the knowledge and expertise to treat your toenail fungus safely and effectively. Schedule a consultation with one of our foot experts today and feel relief sooner rather than later.

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