Nail fungus is an infection of one or more nails, caused by microscopic organisms called fungi. While some fungi can have beneficial uses, others cause infection and illness. Nail fungal infections, called onychomycosis, typically start out as tiny white or yellow spots under the tip of a fingernail or toenail. Often, they are barely noticeable. However, as the fungus spreads, it can cause the nail to discolor, distort, thicken, or crumble.
Nail fungus is an unattractive problem that can also be quite painful. Moreover, it is difficult to treat, especially with over-the-counter medications. Because of this, nail fungus typically recurs. Sometimes infected nails separate from the nail bed, causing a condition known as onycholysis. The infection may cause pain in the fingertips or toes, and it often produce a foul-smelling odor.
Conventional Treatment For Nail Fungus
Once it begins, nail fungus will persist until treated. Over-the-counter products, such as antifungal nail creams or ointments, are common. But they are not very effective for treating nail fungus. Doctors usually prescribe oral antifungal medications that clear up infections and encourage new nail growth. It can take months to eliminate an infection, however, and prescription drugs can have negative side effects. They are not recommended for patients with liver disease or congestive heart failure.
Some doctors opt for topical medications. Prescription creams are usually combined with over-the-counter products containing urea to speed absorption. Topical medications do not provide a cure, of course, but merely a relief. They are usually used in conjunction with prescription oral medication.
Mild or moderate cases of nail fungus can be controlled with antifungal lacquer. Patients paint this prescription nail polish on their nails and the surrounding skin, once a day for a week. The layers are then wiped off with alcohol to prepare for fresh applications. This treatment is effective but lengthy, often taking a year before nail fungus is cleared.
Severe cases of nail fungus may require surgery, such as nail removal or laser treatment. Lasers, or photodynamic therapy, is not available everywhere. And nail removal results in very slow new nail growth.
Home Remedies For Nail Fungus
Because conventional medical treatment takes a long time to work, and is not always effective, some patients turn to home remedies. Vinegar and menthol rubs are two home remedies said to work for nail fungal infections. Common antiseptics are another home remedy solution.
Although there is no evidence that vinegar can cure nail fungus, vinegar soaks have been shown to inhibit bacterial growth. Experts suggest soaking feet in a mixture of one part vinegar to two parts warm water. Patients can soak their feet daily, for fifteen to twenty minutes at a time. For irritated skin, patients can increase the amount of water in the soak, or cut back to about three times a week.
As with vinegar, menthol rubs are also thought to help with nail fungal infections. While no scientific evidence exists, numerous anecdotal reports suggest that menthol rubs are an effective home remedy. Most people simply apply a bit of the menthol rub to the affected fingernail or toenail.
Some people have reported success with certain antiseptics, as well. Common antiseptics for nail fungus include decolorized iodine, peroxide, and chlorine bleach. Antiseptics are typically applied with a cotton swab dipped in the liquid and applied to the infected nail and surrounding skin.