Believe it or not, one of the most common problems I see in my office is toenail fungus. It’s embarrassing to people because it causes their toenails to take on an unsightly, dark color and may even be distorted in shape. No wonder they feel self-conscious. I assure them that getting treatment is the smartest thing they could do and here’s why.
Nail fungus may infect one or more of your nails and can spread deeper into your nail, and become a potentially painful problem. If not treated at the first sign, usually a tiny white or yellow spot under the tip of your nail, it can persist indefinitely. The questions I’m frequently asked are, “what caused this and what can I do to never get it again?”
Let me give you a little background on this nasty organism. Fungi are microscopic and don’t need sunlight to survive. The type of fungal infections that attack nails belong to a group of fungi called dermatophytes. This type of organism lives in warm, moist environments… like the shower floor of a locker room or the inside of a sweaty work boot.
Another factor influencing the spread of nail fungus is a diminished blood circulation to the toes as compared to the fingers. When your body’s immune system can’t function as well as it should, it makes it harder to detect and eliminate infection.
Nail fungus is more common among older people for a number of reasons: poor circulation, nail growth slows and thickens with age, and more years of exposure to fungi. If you have a family history of this type of infection, you are at a greater risk especially if you are male, since nail fungus affects men more often than women.
If you are a toenail fungus sufferer, you may want to look at some of the habits that are contributing to your condition:
• Heavily perspire
• Live and work in a moist, humid environment
• Walking barefoot in damp, public places (gyms, pools, shower rooms)
• Having a skin or nail injury
• Having diabetes or weakened immune system
Don’t Hide Your Feet – It Could Get Worse!
The problem is nail fungal infections pose a serious threat to people with weakened immune systems. This includes sufferers of leukemia, AIDS, diabetes, or any condition that causes your blood circulation and the nerve supply to your feet to become impaired.
Bottom line is, don’t wait to seek medical help if you think you might have toenail fungus. Better to be on the safe side and prevent infection from starting in the first place. Here are just a few tips to keep in mind:
• Wear shower shoes in public locker rooms.
• Trim your toenails regularly.
• Wear clean, dry socks each day. All-cotton socks are best.
• Tuck an extra pair of socks in your car or purse. If your feet get wet, you’ll have a change available.
• Sprinkle an anti-fungal powder into your socks.
• Don’t share towels or toenail trimmers.
Eliminate Toenail Fungus the Natural Way
Unfortunately, nail fungus can be difficult to treat. Your doctor may prescribe an oral antifungal medication such as Lamisil or Sporanox. These medications help a new nail to grow free of infection but can take four months or longer to eliminate infection. As with any drug there may be side effects ranging from skin rashes to liver damage.
Other options include topical medications, antifungal lacquer, even surgery. However, I like to apprise my patients of some natural remedies that have anti-fungal affects that work best as part of a foot soak. You may want to give them a try.
Lemongrass: Lemongrass is a member of the Cymbopogon family of grasses, known throughout Asia for their anti-fungal properties. In one study, essential oil derived from lemongrass reduced fungus activity by up to 50%. Try making a footbath using two dozen drops of lemongrass oil mixed with warm water. Soak your feet each night for a week and watch for improvement in the look of your nails. If you do see improvement, continue the treatment.
Oregano: The essential oil from oregano is also effective at killing fungi. One study showed that oregano oil in hot water killed 99.7% of fungi present. Use the same method with oregano as you would with lemongrass.
Apple Cider Vinegar: Finally, a footbath of apple cider vinegar mixed with warm water can also be effective. Soak for 20 minutes a day until your symptoms disappear.
There is no reason to be ashamed of your feet. Don’t turn away from sandals or flip-flops this summer just because your toenails have issues. Be pro-active, see your doctor and find out what you can do to stop your fungal infection in its tracks. Remember, left untreated toe fungus can get worse. Before turning to harsher drugs with side effects, you might give one or more natural treatments a try. Each is absolutely safe and often effective.