Fungus is all over in the environment, but it tends to flourish in dark, warm, moist environments, so it is not surprising to find it on the feet, whether it is in the form of athlete’s foot (aka tinea pedis) or nail fungus (aka onychomycosis).
When the nails become affected, it can make them thickened, discolored, brittle, and the surrounding toe painful. There is also a cosmetic component to it, which can make it embarrassing for some to walk around with open-toed shoes or to go barefoot. Unfortunately, the condition is often chronic and difficult to treat.
The treatment options for nail fungus are vast and diverse. There are associated risks with each treatment option, though, so it is important to discuss these options with your healthcare professional prior to starting them.
Topical anti-fungal medications: Penlac® Nail Lacquer (Ciclopirox), Formula-3®, Jublia®. They must be applied daily (twice daily for Fomula-3) to the bare nail(s), along with the surrounding nail folds. Because toenails grow at a rate of about 1mm per month, these medications typically need to be used consistently for months to allow for the new nail to grow out and to see if the medication is working. The success rate is low and even lower when the nails are severely infected. Topical medications have usually have minimal risks and chance of side effects.
Oral anti-fungal medication: Lamisil. It is a daily oral pill that is often given for 3 months at a time. Because it is systemic, it has a higher success rate than the topical anti-fungal medications; however, it is not without its potential side effects, including nausea, vomiting, and diarrhea, as well as its rare effects on the liver. It should be prescribed and overseen by a healthcare professional.
Other treatment options: Laser therapy. The purpose of laser therapy is to use the increased heat from the laser to inhibit fungal growth(1). Repeat treatments are likely and are done as the new nail grows out. Keryflex™ nail restoration. Keryflex™ is a cosmetic procedure in which a synthetic resin is applied to the natural nail, producing a nonporous artificial nail using UV light. It is not covered by insurance and requires routine visits for fillers as the nail grows out.
At-home remedies (not anti-fungal medications): Vicks® VapoRub™, Tea tree oil. These are items that you may already have at home. Like the topical anti-fungal medications, these need to be applied daily to the bare nail(s) and will need to be used for months before determining the effectiveness of the treatment.
If you think you have nail fungus and would like more information, along with the available treatment options provided by At Your Feet, please contact Dr. Falk or your own healthcare professional.
Disclaimer: The information in this blog is for educational purposes only and should not be construed as medical advice. Please consult your doctor prior to starting any medications.
1. Dembskey, N., & Abrahamse, H. (2016). Laser Therapy for the Treatment of Onychomycosis: Best Evidence Based Practice or Not. Clin Res Foot Ankle, 4(211), 2.