Last Update: 6 June 2020 by Marc Woodard
If you or someone you know has yellowed, thickened, cracked and/or swollen and inflamed toenails, it is caused from a fungus called onychomycosis [which literally means fungal infection of the nail].
Typically this disease is caused by a fungal tinea species and can also be caused by a candida yeast fungal species. It is also possible to spread these tiny microorganisms to friends and family when good hygiene is not the standard. Either species of fungus can cause a progressive condition that can infect one or more nails, causing them to thicken, discolor, crumble and separate from the toenail bed and cause a foul odor (Dutra 2014).
Good news – This infection can be removed and healthy pink toenails can be yours once again.
What is this fungus and how do we get it? Environmental conditions necessary for it to survive and spread include: Sweaty feet with cotton socks, or socks that don’t breathe, or hold moisture and can cause more than one toenail to become infected. Public use areas that are warm, humid and moist; such as locker rooms, pools, saunas, gyms, even home showers shared by family members are suspect. These are perfect environments for these organisms to infect others through bare foot surface contact.
Once the fungus resides within the toe and nail tissues, your footwear and improper hygiene can sustain the culture, then cultivate and spread it as long as the environmental conditions remain consistent. Acquiring the fungus has mostly to do with improper hygiene and footwear.
There appear to be other factors that include age and other medical conditions that can cause more severe foot and toenail problems. These other factors may include abnormal PH skin, poor circulation, Athlete’s foot, diabetes, immune problems, another infection or injury of toe or nail and skin psoriasis (MayoClinic 2011). It is said before a person reaches 70 years old, there is a 50/50 chance of contracting this fungal condition.
A mechanical or tissue breach may also make you prone or susceptible to acquiring this infection. For instance, when you wear an improperly fitted, or undersized shoe and walk in a way that creates a bio-mechanical foot-toe friction, an opportunity is provided to the fungus which infects tissue. For example, when the end of the big and small toe nails repeatedly catch friction between the toes and shoe material, a loosening of the nail(s) from the toe bed(s) can lead to micro-trauma of both skin and nails. Micro cracks in skin and nails present a perfect opportunity for bacteria to set in and spread its infectious fungus (Dutra 2014).
Also beware, unsterilized salon-home nail clippers, emery boards or other instruments can become infected and spread the fungus. And once it’s on your toenails… after clipping them, it is possible to spread it to the fingernails if you don’t wash your hands.
And if you use a lot of toenail and fingernail polish to cover discolored nails, this may sustain the life of the fungus indefinitely. Because of the way nail polish seals in bacteria and moisture, the tissue does not breathe or heal well.
If this fungal infection goes untreated it can continue on indefinitely and may cause, or contribute to increased health risks caused by other medical complications. “When the immune system is weakened due to other medical conditions especially those with Aids, leukemia or have received an organ transplant serious health risk may result” (MayoClinic 2011).
There are medical treatments, pharmaceuticals and natural remedies you can use that may remove this fungus once and for all. However, if you have a medical condition and/or infection is causing extreme pain and is of health concern, it is wise to seek medical attention in treating this disease immediately.
Your medical treatment options,
It is highly recommended you make an appointment with your primary care doctor or podiatrist for proper treatment of fungal foot, toe, toenail or fingernail infection. Your doctor will likely prescribe one of the following topical medications: For mild infection this may likely include one of four applications: Formula 3, Elon, Fungasil, or Penlac. For a more serious condition an oral antifungal drug may be prescribed, such as Sporanox or Lamisil.
Before oral medication is prescribed your doctor will likely need to assess your health risk through lab work. This assessment is done to determine the functionality of your liver and what prescriptions are safe for your use.
Doctors often prescribe antifungal powders with orals to increase the odds that the fungal infections will stay neutralized or completely abated.
Natural treatments may remove or improve this condition. The most popular ones are listed.
- Vinegar soaking [1 part vinegar/2 part water], ~ 20 minutes daily; no less than 2-3 times per week.
- Some even treat this fungus with a daily application of Vicks Vapor Rub. However it is wise to consult your doctor about this as there is no known study that proves it will kill this fungus.
- Apple Cider Vinegar [soak foot in equal parts mixed with water].
- Tea Tree Oil [swab pure oil on nail, or dilute with equal parts olive oil or thyme oil to apply to skin]. I’ve found this treatment to be one of the most affective at killing the fungus, when treatment continues for 2 months. However, it may return when proper footwear and hygiene in not addressed.
- White vinegar [considered the best solution in dealing with toe nail fungus]. 1 part vinegar to 2 parts water, soak 15 minutes daily].
- Garlic has allicin and is an anti-fungal element [use equal parts garlic and olive oil]. If you don’t have garlic oils, crush two garlic cloves and two Tsps. of olive oil. Let mixture stand 24 hours, then apply and cover with bandage daily], (Top10 2014).
Note: All natural treatments mentioned here are strictly informational. We do not provide medical advice. Consult with your doctor or other health care provider before using any of these tips or treatments.
How can you prevent toenail fungus from developing?
- Purchase properly fitted shoes that breathe and provide enough room for your toes.
- Wear sandals when appropriate.
- Air out shoes, throw away over worn socks and shoes.
- Change socks daily and especially after sweating in them and don’t wear socks that absorb moisture.
- Use anti-fungus powders and sprays; maintain short, dry and clean nails.
- Don’t pick at skin around nails even when there is infection.
- If you have your toenails manicured by a saloon, ensure they sterilize and disinfect instruments prior to use.
- After social functions remove nail polish.
- Bare foot walking in public places should be avoided.
- See your podiatrist if you have foot and/or toe fungus.
A new treatment in the marketplace that appears to be promising is photodynamic laser therapy. This is where intense light is focused on a nail where an acid is applied as part of the protocol to kill the fungus.
Remove this fungus once and for all and get back the health of your toenails. These medical treatments and natural tips have worked well for others and they can work well for you. Make the effort to see your doctor and/or apply a treatment that will work to remove this fungus once and for all.
Works Cited and Reference
Bing. “Toenail Fungus Pictures and Free – Bing Images.” Bing Images – Toenail and Fingernail Fungus. Microsoft. Web. 23 May 2014.
Dutra, Tim, Dr. “Toenail Fungus.” FootVitals. IMG Health Publications, 28 Apr. 2014. Web. 22 May 2014.
MayoClinic. “Nail Fungus.” Mayo Clinic. Mayo Foundation for Medical Education and Research, 25 Aug. 2011. Web. 23 May 2014.
Top 10. “How to Get Rid of Toenail Fungus.” Top 10. Top 10 Home Remedies. Web. 23 May 2014.
Woodard, Marc T. “Diabetes A Serious Disease.” MirrorAthlete Fitness Secrets. MirrorAthlete, 19 September 2017. Web. 19 September 2017.
Author: Marc T. Woodard, MBA, BS Exercise Science, ARNG, CPT, RET. 2023 Copyright. All rights reserved, Mirror Athlete Inc., www.mirrorathlete.org, Sign up for your Free eNewsletter.