The Ultimate Guide to Dealing with an Infected Toenail
Even well-maintained feet can be subject to infection. As we age, infected toenails are often a reality. Nails become dry and brittle and can crack. These cracks in the nails allow fungi to enter and wreak havoc.
A fungus infection can also be caused by a weakened immune system or poor blood circulation to the feet, which is often a symptom of diabetes. Also, athlete’s foot can sometimes spread into the toenail. However, these kinds of fungal infections are rarely contagious to others.
Mild symptoms can often be treated at home with over-the-counter medications. For persistent or severe symptoms, it’s best to consult a physician.
Symptoms of an Infected Toenail
Some of the symptoms of nail fungus include:
- Thickened nails
- Discolored nails, white, yellow or brown
- Brittle or crumbly nails
- Nails that are distorted in shape
- Slightly foul smelling nails
Obviously, none of these are ideal conditions for your feet.
Causes of Toenail Fungus
Infected toenails are usually caused by a fungus, called dermatophyte. Although nail infections can happen to anyone at any age, it’s most common in older people with brittle and cracked nails.
Risk Factors include:
- Being older
- Reduced blood flow
- Sweating heavily
- Athlete’s foot
- Walking barefoot in damp areas (swimming pools, gyms, and shower rooms)
- Nail injury
- Weakened immune system
Some of these factors are easy to avoid. Others not so much. So what can you do if an infection occurs?
1. Vicks VapoRub
A study at Harvard Medical School asserts that Vicks VapoRub, applied daily on the infected toenail, “might be at least as effective as most of the topical treatments for toenail fungus that are available by prescription or over the counter.”
2. Ozonized Sunflower Oil
One study found that Oleozon, or ozonized sunflower oil, when applied topically twice a day, cured 90% of fungal nail infections within three months of use.
3. Snakeroot Extract
Snakeroot plant extract, applied once or twice a week has also been shown to have great success. Traditionally used in Mexico, this plant extract contains encecalin, which has antifungal qualities.
4. Pau d’Arco Tea
Pau d’Arco contains naphthoquinones, which is an antifungal compound. The tea is made from the inner bark of a tree, native to South America. It’s important to note that soaking your feet in the tea, rather than drinking it, is how to apply treatment.
5. Oregano Oil
Mix 2 drops of oregano oil with 1 teaspoon of olive oil and apply to the infected toenail daily for no longer than 3 weeks. Thymol and carvacrol are both found in oregano oil, and both have antifungal qualities.
6. Apple Cider Vinegar
Soak toenails in a 1:2 ratio of vinegar to warm water for 20 minutes a day. The acetic acid in vinegar is antifungal.
7. Tea Tree Oil
Apply tea tree oil with a cotton swab twice daily to the mildly infected toenail. One study found tea tree oil to be just as effective as the antifungal medicine clotrimazole for mild cases.
There are many precautions you can take to prevent fungal infections:
- Wash your hands and feet regularly
- Trim nails straight across to prevent ingrown nails
- Disinfect your nail clippers
- Wear absorbent socks
- Wear shoes made of breathable materials
- Disinfect shoes regularly
- Wear flip-flops or water shoes in pool areas and locker rooms
- Only go to nail salons that sterilize manicure tools after each customer
These are easy tips to follow and are very effective at preventing a nasty infection.
When to See a Physician
See a physician if self-care isn’t working, especially in severe cases and when symptoms are persisting.
Also, if you have diabetes or a weakened immune system, fungal infections can lead to more serious complications, so it’s important to see a doctor right away.
If you have complications from a toenail infection, it might be time to talk to a podiatrist.
Contact us to schedule an appointment today!