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In this section you will find articles and videos on nail fungus and nail fungus treatments. Feel free to search for a subject concerning you or just browse around. We have amassed the largest informational database on nail fungus online and are here to help…
What Nails Are and How They Become Infected
Our nails look like clear, hard sheathes that cover part of our finger and eventually grow out over the edge. Most people have a bit of a pinkish tinge underneath their nails. The nail itself isn’t pink but allows the color of the skin and blood vessels directly underneath to show through. This is what a normal, healthy nail should look like.
A nail infection discolors the nail to a whitish or yellowish color at first, then as it grows, brown and black can become part of the color scheme.
Nails are made up of keratin, the same protein that builds our hair and the outmost layer of our skin. Keratin is a strong-celled protein that is fairly diverse. For our nails, it builds this lovely sheath to protect the soft part of the nail from harm.
How Does Infection Get Into the Nail?
Really what happens is that a fungal infection gets under the nail. Just like their cousins, the mushroom, the fungal spores that grow and invade the nail bed want to be in a warm, dark, damp place to grow. We come into contact with these spores on a regular basis. Some of them are harmless and wash off with no effect to us. Others try to seek a parasitic relationship with our bodies, using us as a means to grow and spread themselves.
Most people don’t realize when or where they might come into contact with these parasitic fungal spores. The answer is, pretty much everywhere. Germs, viruses, and spores are part of the make-up of our eco-system. Having a healthy immune system is what allows our bodies to fight these things off.
The fungus that most commonly causes nail infection is called a dermatophyte. We come into contact with them every day and for most people, no harm is caused. However, for people with certain diseases, like diabetes, or who have poor circulation, or even who have been sick for a long time, so their immune system has been working overtime, these parasitic fungi find a happy breeding ground. The most commonly affected area is the toenail, as it is usually kept in the dark and surrounded by warm fabric that has the potential to hold in moisture. Fingernail fungus infections occur most often in people who spend a great deal of time with their hands in the water or exposed to harsh chemicals.
Fungus grow very slowly, so by the time the infected person notices the discoloration of their nail, the fungus has already established a fairly good hold on the nail. Usually it gets underneath the nail at the tip of the toe by working its way underneath and into the protected nail bed. It can also get into the soft tissue surrounding the nail and work its way under from there. Nail Fungus Infections aren’t incredibly dangerous, but they do take a very long time to treat, as the fungus isn’t gone until the nail has grown out entirely clear.
What can I do to prevent it?
There are lots of ways you can prevent nail fungus from getting to your nails in the first place. This is your best bet.
- Keep your nails trimmed close to the edge of the finger or toe tip. The less space there is at the edge of the nail for the fungus to get on, the less likely it will be to grow.
- Wash your hands and feet regularly and dry them thoroughly. Wear clean socks every day and make sure your shoes dry out entirely before wearing them, especially if you wear the same shoes every day.
- Wear something on your feet when in public areas that have a lot of water, like swimming pools or locker rooms. And make sure those shoes have a chance to dry out too!
If I Get Infected, How Do I Treat It?
There are a great many home remedies suggested on this and other websites. Over-the-counter remedies and medications are another good idea. If you’re going to try to treat it yourself, start working with one of these remedies and wash the affected area at least twice a day, then dry it thoroughly. Wear clean socks if it’s a toenail infection, even to the point of changing your socks a couple times a day. Right after washing your feet. And if it is possible for you to wear sandals, exposing your feet to the light also helps.
If your infection is severe or well advanced, a visit to your doctor to figure out what kind of fungal infection it is and what treatment options are available to you will be your next step.
Are There Any Over the Counter Nail Fungus
Treatments That Actually Prove Effective?
As microorganisms go, fungi seem to be one of the strongest strains. It is much harder to kill them than bacteria and viruses. Dermatophyte, molds and yeasts can invade your nails and burrow deep into the nail itself, creating quite the armor of keratin for this marauding nail fungus. This makes treating onychomycoses much more difficult as even powerful antimycotic medications are not always entirely effective. So this begs the question of whether any of the available over-the-counter nail fungus treatments are effective and worth your time and money.
It is an unfortunate but true fact that very few topical treatments, whether prescription or over-the-counter, effectively treat and cure nail fungus infections.
A very popular over-the-counter topical onychomycosis drug that has been proven to be effective in clinical trials is amorolfine. This topical drug is available without a prescription in a handful of countries such as the United Kingdom and New Zealand. It’s marketing name is Loceryl. Amorolfine comes as a nail lacquer and is painted on the nail like a polish. This leaves the medicine free to penetrate the nail after it has dried and allows it to work over time, just as the nail fungus does. It is active up to a week, then may need to be re-applied.
Amorolfine works by inhibiting the cell membrane of the fungus. It is only effective on distal (or lateral) subungual onychomycosis. This leaves out proximal subungual onychomycosis and superficial white onychomycosis. Knowing which type of onychomycosis you have contracted is important if you wish to choose this over-the-counter method.
Amorolfine is not available in the United States as an over-the-counter remedy, which is inconsistent with other countries’ policies. There are a few side effects but they are mild and rarely occur with proper usage. A burning sensation while applying the lacquer for the first time has been reported, but it goes away quickly. As online pharmacies become more popular, it may be possible to obtain amorolfine in the U.S. via these services who sell it over-the-counter. However cost may be an issue as Loceryl (the commercial name for amorolfine) can cost around $100.00 – $150.00 for a single 5 ml tube.
There are several over-the-counter anti-fungals that are very successful at treating skin fungus problems but are not successful nail fungus treatments.
Lamisil is a decent oral onychomycosis treatment when it is prescribed in tablet form. However it also has an over-the-counter form of a topical cream, which has not proven effective at treating nail fungus.
Lotrimin (also known as clotrimazole) is very effective at treating athelete’s foot and jock itch but has not tested or been shown as a good nail fungus treatment.
Tolnaftate (or Tinactin) is the third over-the-counter product that although it is an excellent skin fungus treatment, does little or nothing for nail fungus.
A more promising solution in terms of over-the-counter medications is an anti-fungal nail liquid of undecylenic acid. Two different papers, one published in 1965 and the other published in 2008 examined the use of undecylenic acid in treating onychomycosis. The 2008 study shows a positive effect, however in these tests the undecylenic acid was combined with cyanoacylate and hydroquinone. There is no definite proof of undecylenic acid being effective on its own.
In the realm of alternative medicine, Tea Tree Oil, (Melaleuca alternifolia) has been shown to have some positive effect on nail fungus. As it is a naturally occurring fungicide and insect repellant, applying a 100% concentration of the oil to the infected area has been reported by small studies to be able to cure 20% of the cases followed. In two-thirds of the patients followed, using Tea Tree Oil caused an improvement in the appearance of the nail fungus infection. Another study compared the twice daily application of 100% Tea Tree Oil and a 1% solution of clotrimazole. The Tea Tree Oil appeared to be slightly more effective at clearing up the nail fungus problem.
Topical products or removing the nail
All of these topical products are applied and have been tested in cases where there has not been surgery to remove the nail before applying the product. It is possible that removing the nail before treatment, via surgical, mechanical or chemical method, may improve the chances of an over-the-counter nail treatment clearing up a nail fungus as this allows the medicine to get directly to the source of the infection. If you are considering surgery or any other form of nail removal as part of your onychomycosis treatment, please ask your surgeon or doctor for information about follow up nail fungus treatments.
If you do not wish to go the surgery route to solve your onychomycosis issues but do wish to cure your nail fungus, the best chance of success still lies with taking oral antifungal agents, which are currently only available with a doctor’s prescription.
Onychoschizia – Split Nails
Onychoschizia is a condition in which the nail split or falls apart easily. Typically people who have Onychoschizia have nails that are very fragile, squashy, and thin or that have funny “crumple” lines. Sufferers are more prone to nail infections. Onychoschizia is most commonly found in women.
What Causes Onychoschizia?
- Long periods of being submerged in water or chemical baths
- Poor nutrition
- Vitamin Deficits
- Applying nail polish remover
How to Deal With Onychoschizia
- Wear protective gloves whenever working with chemicals (household or otherwise) or immersing hands in water for a long period of time.
- Use ointments or lotions that contain alpha hydroxyl acid, for instance, Lanolin or Neostrata, especially after washing your hands and/or feet
- Do not use your fingernails to dial a telephone or to type as the repeated stress will cause your nails to break
- Pay attention to how people with healthy fingernails treat them
- Wear gloves during the winter to help protect your nails from possible infection
- Trim and file your nails to a nice shape at the tip so that there is less risk of breakage.
- Do not buff the bulk of the nail as this can strip away necessary protective layers
- Taking biotin in 2.4 milligram doses as a daily supplement can help with healthy nail growth. Please note: this should not be done by women who are pregnant.
- Including a daily dose of Knox Gelatin, mixed with fruit juice, every day can help to increase nail strength.
- Taking nutritional supplements to help increase healthy nail growth
- Wearing nail polish with nylon fiber can help to strengthen and protect the nail.
The Places Toenail Fungus Like To Hide
Permanently ridding yourself of a nail fungus infection once it has taken hold can be a very difficult job. The fungus grows slowly but strongly and by the time you see the initial symptoms, a great deal of damage has already occurred. The fungus likes to work its way underneath the nail so that it uses the nail as a shield to keep it warm and moist, its favorite growing environment. It also makes it easier for the infection to reoccur after what seems like successful treatment because the fungus can lie dormant underneath the nail, then start growing again once the treatment ceases.
How Does a Nail Fungus Grow?
A fungus is a parasitic growth that prefers darkness to sunlight, as it has no chlorophyll. It does have roots and spreads via spores. Much like its cousin the mushroom, the body of the fungus looks like an umbrella. The spores spread and grow in dark, damp places. The most common cause of toenail fungus is wearing shoes as they hold in the moisture of sweat and keep the toenails in the dark. Also, most people wear the same pair of moisture absorbing shoes over and over again without allowing them to dry and air properly. Your body gives off both moisture and heat, providing the fungus with the perfect living environment.
Besides Shoes, Where Else Do Fungus Hide?
Exercise mats, such as yoga mats are ideal breeding grounds for the spores that cause nail fungus. Although the mat is made of rubber, which you would think is impenetrable, it soaks up the heat and moisture while you exercise. Then after your workout, you roll it up and stick it away until next time, providing the perfect growing environment for the fungus to attack your feet.
Flip-Flops that people wear into public showers are another good breeding ground for fungus, especially because most people don’t allow them to dry thoroughly before using them again. Ironically, the very item you use to protect your feet becomes the transmitter for the fungus you are trying to avoid.
Remedies To Treat Nail Fungus
There are many ointments and nail fungus solutions available over the counter or on the Internet to clear up nail fungus infections.
Most people try these, or home remedies before resorting to taking an oral antifungal medication to clear up the fungal nail infection as there are risky side effects associated with these treatments.
Mixing Tea Tree Oil and mineral oil as a toe soak is a home remedy solution. The mineral oil works to soften both the nail and surrounding skin, the Tea Tree Oil is a natural antifungal and antiseptic. Combined, these can be a powerful treatment for your nail fungus problem. This, and all nail fungus treatments, will take a while to show results and to cure the problem permanently, so you have to be patient and practice these remedies regularly so the full healing process can take place.
Fungal Toenail Infections and Using Home Remedies
When people think of the phrase ‘home remedy’ they envision something that has been passed down through generations of family members and passed through many people by word of mouth. This is fairly accurate. As most of our grandparents and great grandparents grew up in a time when going to the doctor wasn’t as easy as it is today and when medicinal compounds weren’t that far away from what was already available in the house, many home remedies may seem strange, but especially in the case of fighting toenail fungus, they just may work!
There are a great many home remedies suggested for sufferers of toenail fungus and even more people will agree that they are effective. Everything from soaking your feet in Listerine or vinegar to applying Vicks VapoRub, bleach, peroxide or various essential oils to the affected area are circulating out there. Whereas the intelligence behind putting bleach directly on your skin is questionable, there are online-forums-worth of people who will swear by this and other methods.
Some useful remedies
The theory behind many of these treatments is that the fungus requires a certain environment to grow in, which includes a favorable pH level. Soaking your feet in something like a solution of vinegar and water would alter that pH level rather drastically and make the growing environment more hostile. One problem with this particular method is that soaking your whole foot in vinegar changes the pH in every area your skin comes into contact with the solution, which frequently dries out the skin, leaving it more prone to infection. A viable alternative is to soak a cotton ball in vinegar and place that on the affected area for 15-20 minutes. This isolates the vinegar to the places it is most needed and doesn’t damage the healthy skin surrounding the infection. This technique also works with the suggestion of Listerine.
“Why Vicks VapoRub?” many people ask. The common theory is that it has to do with the eucalyptus in the product. The results are fairly unanimous from those who have tried it, it really works to clear up toenail fungus, and works fast. If you choose this method, you must cover the entire affected area and rub the compound in well. Reports state that the infection starts to clear up within days.
Using rubbing alcohol or peroxide, applied to the nail, the surrounding area and under the nail bed if possible, are two other very common remedies. The likelihood of irritation is fairly high with these two but they have also been proven effective at killing toenail fungus.
All of the remedies listed here have shown to be effective at slowing, killing and/or removing toenail fungus. But, as when using any home remedy, you must use a bit of common sense. If the infection gets worse or if the skin around the infected nail becomes irritated and infected as well, stop treatment immediately and see your doctor. Most of these remedies are for the early stages of toenail fungal infections and should not be started if your toe is already oozing pus or if the nail has separated from the nail bed. Again, if this is your situation, contact your health care professional right away.