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One of the most common nail problems is fungal infection. Fungal infections of the nails begin at the free margins and sides and result in yellowish discoloration, increased thickness, and marked fragility. Toenails are more frequently affected than fingernails. Infections of the toenails and fingernails are caused by a fungus, trichophyton rubrum, and are often quite difficult to treat. In the same way one gets athlete's foot, nail fungus is usually picked up when you are around damp conditions in public areas, such as locker rooms, pools, and spas. It can be spread by common use of manicure tools, and can spread to other toenails and fingernails. People are more susceptible to fungal infections if they have a weakened immune system, diabetes, or a history of athlete's foot. We suggest boosting your immune system and using one of the following remedies. Fungi are everywhere. In about 6% of the population fungi penetrate the nail and lead to discoloration and eventual deformity.
Because of the distortion and color changes, nail fungal infections are often a cosmetic embarrassment. Some may prove painful and interfere with walking. The condition is difficult to treat, requiring many weeks of oral antifungal therapy (Lamisil, Sporanox). Cure may be expected in about 60 percent of those treated. Topical therapy (Penlac lacquer) may prevent worsening but is rarely curative. On occasion affected persons opt for surgical or chemical removal of an involved nail. Several drugs, namely Griseofulvin (general side effects: nausea, headaches, insomnia, confusion) and Ketoconazole (side effects: nausea, vomiting, dizziness, fatigue, and liver damage), have been used successfully to treat nail fungus in the past. More recently newer drugs, such as Sporoanox (same general side effects, plus allergic reaction, chest pains, liver damage) and Lamisil (same general side effects, plus possible allergic reaction, changes in vision, liver damage) have been used, with the latter as the medication of choice. Again, however, there are side effects and treatment is quite expensive.
This type of fungus can spread to other toes, so it is important to treat it immediately. Since it is hard to get rid of, be patient, as a cure may be weeks or months away.
Trim your nail back and apply tea tree oil with a Q-tip or soft toothbrush twice a day. We also suggest using DMSO, a solvent. DMSO acts as a carrier and will aid in getting the tea tree oil to the fungus.
Go to our Athlete's Foot section for some additional prevention tips.
Apple cider vinegar (ACV) Soak the affected nails for 15 minutes a day in a basin containing 2 quarts of warm water, 1 cup of apple cider vinegar, and 10 drops of lavender essential oil. The ACV restores the proper pH balance to the skin, making it more resistant to fungal infections. The lavender has antimicrobial properties. Dry the area thoroughly using a towel followed by a hair dryer set to warm. Follow up with tea tree oil, as suggested below. You can also make a mixture of equal parts of tea tree oil and lavender and dab this on the nail.
Grapefruit seed extract This extract is a powerful all-around antimicrobial product and is an excellent disinfectant. Make a solution of 100 drops in two ounces of water and apply to the affected areas with a cotton ball two or three times a day.
Iodine is an old standby for killing bacteria, viruses and fungi. Paint the area with iodine, but since iodine can stain clothing and bedding, keep the toe covered with a loose bandage. Some people are allergic to iodine, so if you get a reaction, switch to another remedy. We recommend IOSOL or Lugol's brands of iodine. Iodine can affect the thyroid, both in a positive or negative way, so since you will need to use iodine over an extended period of time we suggest you use it under the supervision of your physician. As with some of the other remedies mentioned in this section, you can use DMSO to enhance the performance.
Oregano oil This oil is probably the best anti-fungal. However, it is strong and may irritate your skin. If irritation occurs, dilute the oil in several drops of olive oil or aloe. Use a Q-Tip or toothbrush to get the oil under the nail. One way to make oregano oil more effective is to apply a natural solvent, DMSO after you have applied the oil. This will help the oil penetrate thru the skin and nail faster. As with other remedies, progress is going to be slow, so be patient!
Tea tree oil Tea tree oil is a natural antibiotic. Tea tree oil, derived from the leaves of the native Australian Melaleuca alternifolia tree contains antiseptic and anti-fungal compounds that are a very effective skin disinfectant. Apply the oil on the affected area two or three times a day until the new nail has completely grown out. This can mean about 6 months for fingernails and up to 12 months for toenails. Make sure the product label says it is 100% pure tea tree oil. As with oregano oil mentioned above, the use of DMSO will make this remedy more effective.
Vick´s VapoRub Apply to the affected area every other day for 2-3 weeks. Although this may sound like a strange use for the product we used to rub on our chest, it contains eucalyptus oil and thymol (derived from thyme oil), both known as powerful anti-fungals.