toes

Fungal nail infections can be a stressful and recurring problem in some peoples’ lives. Fungal nail infections, referred to as onychomycosis in the medical community, affect as much as 10% of the general population. And the likelihood of experiencing fungal nail infections only increases with age – with the chance of being affected rising to 50% for those over the age of 70.2

In addition to advanced age, there are several other factors that may make a person likely to experience toenail fungus. Medical factors include diabetes and other causes of poor blood flow to the toes and diseases and medications that affect the immune system. Lifestyle factors include living in a warm and humid climate, use of communal bathrooms and shower stalls, and injury to the nails.1,2

Those with fungal nail infections may notice brittle, yellow toe nails that are easily cracked. It can be quite a distressing problem to have. Fortunately, there are many treatments available to counter these infections. 

Treatments for fungal nail infections

When people think of treatments for fungal nail infections, they usually imagine over-the-counter creams or treatments that are painted onto the nail. While these may improve the overall appearance of the nail, they often don’t do much to fully eradicate the issue. Commonly suggested treatments such as menthol-containing creams and tea tree oil have been found lacking by the few studies that have focused on them as a treatment for nail fungus.2

Fortunately, this doesn’t mean that there are no appropriate antifungal creams for your toes. There are prescription topical creams and serums available that have been found to work toward eradicating toenail fungus. Some of those creams and serums include ciclopirox, efinaconozole, and tavaborole.1

While topical treatments may be the best choice for some, experts agree that prescription oral medications are the most reliable way to cure toenail fungus entirely.2 In some cases, they are used in combination with topical medications. Some oral medications include itraconozole and terbinafine. However, these medications may have significant side effects such as liver damage, or they may interact with other medications.2 This is particularly important for those of advanced age, who may be taking multiple types of other medications.

Remember to talk with your healthcare provider to determine what treatment course is most appropriate for you.

Preventing a fungal nail infection

There are ways to protect your toenails from fungus that don’t require any medication at all. 

Try moisture-wicking socks to keep your feet as dry as possible. Avoid ill-fitting shoes that dig into your toenails and may damage them. And, be sure to wear sandals in communal showers and bathrooms.2

It’s important to note that treating toenail fungus can be a frustrating journey. Many people experience failure of treatment, up to as many as 53% no matter what medication is used.1 The condition may take a while to clear and may require different trials of treatment to determine the best combination. Stay patient and remember to keep speaking with your healthcare provider about any treatments or medications that might be right for you. 

References:

  1. Ghannoum M, Isham N. Fungal nail infections (onychomycosis): A never-ending story? PLoS Pathogens.2014;10(6). doi:10.1371/journal.ppat.1004105 
  2. Richert B. Physical treatment of onychomycosis. Onychomycosis. 2018:150-159. doi:10.1002/9781119226512.ch17

Photo by Marcus Aurelius from Pexels

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