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September 11, 2012 at 9:50 PMComments: 2 Faves: 0

A Home Remedy for Toe Nail Fungus

By Jeffrey VanWingen M.D. More Blogs by This Author

Other people's feet gross out some people, but they don't bother me - which is good because I look at a lot of feet as a family doctor.

I can remove an ingrown toenail practically blindfolded. Still, the thought of getting a pedicure and having someone else run an instrument under my toenails makes me cringe. Among my patients I have seen the best and the worst of toenails. Painted and adorned toenails always amaze me. I also see a lot of toenails infected by a fungus.

Many people with this condition don't really mind, but some people would do anything to have normal nails again.

This blog will discuss fungal toenails and treatment options available, including a home remedy I share with patients.

What Causes Toe Nail Fungus?

The doctor's word for toenail fungus is onychomycosis ("on-i-ko-my-ko-sis").

Symptoms of an infection usually begin with a discoloration of white, yellow or brown that spreads from the end of the nail toward the toe. Eventually, the nail begins to thicken, become crumbly and/or split. Other toenails can also become infected in a similar fashion.

Most fungal infections of the toenails are caused by sheer bad luck. The fungi that cause these infections are ever-present in the environment and we are consistently exposed. Men are affected more than women and rates increase with age. Conditions that negatively impact circulation to the far reaches of the body can also play a role such as diabetes, peripheral vascular disease (PVD) or smoking.

Treatment Options for Toe Nail Fungus

When I sit down with patients to discuss treatment options, I am looking for a commitment. Success in treatment, no matter what option, involves patience and compliance with therapy. In other words, it is a long road. Better outcomes are seen when the infection is in the early stages.

  • Antifungal Nail Lacquer: There is an antifungal nail lacquer called Penlac that can be painted on the nail several days out of the week, building on the previous application and then completely removed at the end of the week. This is only successful when the infection is mild and has not extended beyond the lunula of the nail (the white half-moon area at the base of the nail) and a whole course of therapy is typically one year.
  • Antifungal Cream: These treatments can treat and cure fungal infections on the skin, but will not cure fungal infections in the toe nail. Sometimes they are used to keep the infection from worsening and keep the nails soft, but a cure should not be expected.
  • Antifungal Pills: There are currently two antifungal oral medications are approved by the Food and Drug Administration to treat toe nail fungus: terbenafine (Lamisil) and itraconazole (Sporanox). These medications work by preventing infection in the new nail that grows. A twelve week course is required. Liver function is measured at the beginning and half way through treatment to ensure that the liver is capable and metabolizing the drug properly. Of persons that complete the full course of therapy, 2/3 will experience cure. Down the line, 1/2 will become infected again and ultimately, only 1/3 will be cured for good. With available generics, the cost of the medications has come down considerably. However, insurance companies often consider onychomycosis treatment cosmetic so coverage is sketchy.
  • Surgery and Laser Treatment:Surgical removal of the nail is usually only reserved for painfully thickened nails and is not a means of cure. A newer therapy which involves treating the nail with an acid solution and then subsequent laser therapy is showing promise, but it is still quite new.

My Home Remedy for Toe Nail Fungus

The following remedy showed some benefit in a report in the journal Advance for Nurse Practitioners, June 2004 and I recommend it to my patients:

  1. Soak the feet in a vinegar-water solution (2 parts water, 1 part white vinegar) for 15-20 minutes nightly.
  2. Before bed, apply Vicks Vapo Rub to the toe nails, especially underneath the ledge of the nail and put on socks to wear through the night.
  3. Wash off in the morning.
  4. Perform this ritual for several weeks. If improvements are seen, continue for a full 12 weeks.

Toenail fungus is common. If you have it and consider it unsightly, it will take some patience and persistence, but there is hope in treating this infection.

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2 Comments

  • Thanks for the info. I was at a cookout this summer with some friends and family and I noticed one of the ladies had some issues with her feet. Her nails were kind of jagged and pointed up instead of out. The entire edges of her feet were a cream color and looked cracked and quite painful. I didn't say anything to her about it, but I felt bad for her. I wish I had some ideas how to talk about it, I appreciate knowing more about this issue.

  • Thanks for the info I also have a problem with my toenail and I will try this home remedy most of the time I put nail polish to hide them.

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