Toenail fungus can be difficult to see, at least at first, and in the way the fungus is spread is so much tied to normal activities it’s not surprising infection happens very often. It is very contagious, so just using someone else’s toenail clippers can spread the fungus to healthy toes.
Since it’s not quickly detectable, it can spread easily and, if unchecked, it can even cause loss of the nail completely. For the most severe of infected toenails, surgery is required to completely remove the nail so the area can be properly treated with topical anti-fungal medication. Obviously, it’s important to know what to look for to avoid extreme and painful measures to eradicate it.
What It Looks Like
In the beginning stages of infection, some may notice their toenail is separating from the bed in areas and this should be noticeable when cleaning the nail. If the cleaned area under the nail begins to look larger or deeper, there may very well be a fungus.
Some other more noticeable signs are white streaks, yellowing of the nail, or nails beginning to grow out mis-shapen and bumpy in appearance and break easily.
Since fungus grows well in warm conditions, the fungus will never go away on its own. Because we spend most of our time in shoes, the constant warmth will add to the spread which might eventually affect surrounding toenails.
Where It Comes from
Those who are most at risk for attracting toenail fungus are those who spend time in water, pools or other public water areas. Some familial properties are involved, so if it runs in the family, chances of contracting toenail fungus are higher.
Toenail fungus is of the same type of fungus which causes athlete’s foot, so the spread of this can reach the toenail if untreated.
Because the fungus enters the toenail from cracks in or crevices at the toenail area, exposure can occur wherever other affected toenails are present. Prevention techniques such as washing feet daily with soap and water, wearing shoes in common water areas, and wearing breathable socks with shoes can impede the process.
How to Treat It
Treatments vary widely and depend upon how severe the toenail fungus has become. In the early stages, there are a wide variety of home remedy options.
Vinegar is the prime ingredient in most recipes which include combinations of garlic, a variety of oils, and even mouthwash. Sometimes these require soaking the affected toenail for up to 30 minutes twice per day and may take up to six to eight weeks for results.
Killing toenail fungus takes time and patience because even the smallest amount will continue to grow if given the right elements. Anti-fungal properties found in some natural combinations break down the cell wall of the fungus, causing them to die and makes it difficult for them to re-grow.
Unfortunately, many don’t see the early stages of toenail fungus and it grows unchecked for quite some time. Getting a hold of it in later stages may take more than home remedies.
Over the counter, common anti-fungal creams used for athlete’s foot or ringworm are typically not effective due to the properties of the lotions. Since toenail fungus resides under the nail, creams will not reach the affected area.
Liquid drops, medicinal nail lacquers, and emulsified anti-fungals will reach deep into the nail bed where the fungus is living, and with daily use can kill the menace over time.
As with home remedies, these can take some time, up to three months in some cases. It most likely took several weeks for the problem to grow, and treating it will take equal time.
See the Doctor
As with any over the counter remedy, they are only as strong as the FDA allows and physicians have access to prescription strength medications and drugs which can cut the time down for healing.
A dermatologist or podiatrist can correctly diagnose the fungus and the best treatment for elimination. If the toenail fungus has reached the no-turning-back-stage where topical treatments are no longer an option, they may have to remove the nail and prescribe an oral medication to treat it from the inside.
The physician may opt to just cut away some of the nails and treat with a liquid topical. Since these professionals have seen the work of fungus thousands of times, they will know exactly what they are treating and which have the best results in each individual case.
They will also know when the treatment has worked and the fungus is eradicated, which is something most people would never recognize with an untrained eye.