What to do about my Toenail Fungus?

Toenail fungus treatments include a wide variety of options

First, let’s define toenail fungus

Toenail fungus (onychomycosis) is caused by fungi known as dermophytes, which thrives on skin, hair, and nails. The fungus gets under the nail and begins to grow, damaging the nail so it discolors, becoming white, brown, or yellow. Eventually, the nail might thicken, harden, become brittle, and even fall off.

According to the American Podiatrist Medical Association, nail fungus is easy to pick up from showers, locker rooms, and swimming pools because fungi thrive in the damp, humid conditions. People with underlying health conditions like diabetes, circulatory issues, or immune-deficiency conditions are especially vulnerable.

This condition can be very difficult to cure and the treatment can last for several weeks or months.

Lab analysis

Lab analysis is the best way to ascertain whether you have an infection of fungus, mold, or yeast. Once the exact cause of the problem is identified, your doctor can then decide how to get rid of your toenail fungus.

Oral treatments

Oral anti-fungal treatments such as Lamisil (terbinafine), Diflucan (fluconazole) or Sporanox (itraconazole) are effective treatments and take around three months to work. However, they can have unpleasant side effects, including stomach upset, dizziness, skin problems, and liver damage leading to jaundice. A full medical history is an essential step in this process to avoid damaging side effects.

The medications used to treat this are expensive and they are not benign. Lamisil is  powerful and it stays in your body six months after you stop using it, which is one of the reasons why it works so well. So using these medicines, we must be conscious that we may be affecting a person’s liver, because the liver is the organ that helps to detoxify the body and excretes that medicine.

People with liver problems or raised liver function can’t tolerate oral medication, and some patients don’t respond to oral medication, so topical treatments are an alternative.

Topical treatments

Topical treatments are applied directly to the infected nail, but may take a long time to work. For example, the relatively new treatment Kerydin can take up to 12 months to clear the condition. However, this type of treatment is more suitable for those with liver problems or who haven’t responded to oral treatments.

Laser treatment

Laser treatment for this condition is non-invasive and works quite quickly. The laser can attack the fungus beneath the nail, killing it off without damaging the nail itself.

Surgical treatmentsSometimes the whole nail can be removed and a healthy nail can grow in its place. But if the infection has gotten into the nail matrix, where the new nail is formed, the new nail will also be infected. In cases like this, it may be necessary to remove the matrix. This can be done with chemicals such as phenol or sodium hydroxide.
Application of those chemicals would destroy the matrix cells. After surgery, the toenail won’t grow back.

The other method, which is also very frequently used, is to surgically cut out the matrix cells. And, when that happens, you get a couple of stitches to the base of the area and that’s the end of it.

Home remedies

Because the treatment for this condition doesn’t always work and can cause side effects, many people look to home remedies as a first step when trying to get rid of toenail fungus.

Essential oils and ozonized oils

Several essential oils have been shown to be an effective toenail fungus treatment.

Tea tree oil also has anti-fungal and antiseptic properties. The National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health cites some small-scale clinical studies suggesting that tea tree oil might be an effective home remedy.

Plant extracts

Olive leaf extract contains oleuropein, which is known to have anti-fungal properties. You can apply olive leaf extract as a topical treatment or take it in the form of capsules. A review published in The Pharma Journal showed that the supplement was more effective than topical treatment.

Snake root extract comes from a plant in the sunflower family. A 2008 study conducted by the Centro de Investigación Biomédica del Sur and published in Planta Med, found that applying the extract to the affected nail over three months was more effective than treatment with the prescription anti-fungal Penlac (ciclopirox).

Left untreated, this condition won’t go away on its own and can cause serious pain, deformity, and even lead to further complications.

Contact our offices Laurel Foot & Ankle Center or Northern Virginia Foot & Ankle Associates and schedule an appointment today.

To learn more about treating toenail fungus, go to Heel Pain Institute of America or Laurel Foot & Ankle Center or Northern Foot & Ankle Associates.

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