The Best 5
Toenail Fungus Treatments

By Lance Penn - Senior Podiatrist

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Toenail fungus, or onychomycosis, is a common yet stubborn condition. It can cause discomfort, embarrassment, and even pain if left untreated.

The good news is that there are numerous treatments available. These range from over-the-counter options to prescription medications, advanced therapies, and even home remedies.

In this guide, we will explore the top five toenail fungus treatments. We aim to provide a comprehensive overview of each, discussing their effectiveness, usage, and potential side effects.

Whether you’re currently dealing with toenail fungus or suspect you might have it, this guide is for you. It’s also a valuable resource for caregivers, family members, or anyone interested in foot health and nail care.

By the end of this article, you’ll be equipped with the knowledge to make an informed decision about the best treatment for your situation. Let’s dive in.

Best 5 Toenail fugus treatments
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Understanding Toenail Fungus

Toenail fungus, also known as onychomycosis, is a common condition that affects many people worldwide. It’s caused by various types of fungi, including dermatophytes, yeasts, and molds, that invade the nail bed.

These fungi thrive in warm, moist environments, making your shoes a perfect breeding ground. Factors like age, weakened immune system, and certain health conditions can increase your risk of developing toenail fungus.

Symptoms and Causes

The most common symptoms of toenail fungus include yellowing, thickening, and crumbling of the nail. In some cases, the nail may also become distorted in shape or emit a foul odor.

These symptoms are caused by the fungi breaking down keratin, the protein that makes up your nails. The infection usually starts at the edge of the nail and spreads inward, which can cause discomfort or even pain over time.

If you want to learn more about nail fungus then read our ultimate guide to fungal nail infections.

5. Home Remedies and Alternative Treatments

Coming in at number five with the least effective treatment for nail fungus, home remedies or alternative treatments. These can include natural oils, vinegar soaks, and dietary changes.

However, it’s important to note that while these methods may help alleviate symptoms, they are not proven to cure toenail fungus. Always consult with a healthcare provider before starting any new treatment regimen.

Here are some popular home remedies and alternative treatments:

  • Natural oils (e.g., tea tree oil)
  • Vinegar soaks
  • Dietary changes and supplements

Natural Oils and Soaks

Natural oils, such as tea tree oil, have antifungal properties and can be applied directly to the nail. Similarly, soaking the feet in a vinegar solution is a popular home remedy for toenail fungus.

While these methods can help alleviate symptoms, they are not proven to cure the infection. It’s also important to note that natural oils can cause skin irritation in some people, so it’s recommended to do a patch test first.

Dietary Changes and Supplements

Some people believe that dietary changes can help treat toenail fungus. This can include eating a diet rich in probiotics and low in sugar, which can help boost the immune system and fight off fungal infections.

Supplements, such as biotin, are also often recommended to improve nail health. However, more research is needed to confirm the effectiveness of these methods. Always consult with a healthcare provider before starting any new dietary regimen or supplement.

soaking feet

4. Topical Treatments

Topical treatments are often the first line of defense against toenail fungus. These treatments come in various forms, including creams, ointments, and nail polishes, and are applied directly to the infected nail.

The active ingredients in these treatments work by killing the fungi or stopping their growth. However, their effectiveness can vary depending on the severity of the infection and the individual’s overall health.

Here are some commonly used topical treatments for toenail fungus:

  • Antifungal creams and ointments
  • Medicated nail polishes
  • Antifungal nail lacquers

Over-the-Counter Options

Over-the-counter (OTC) topical treatments are widely available and can be a good option for mild to moderate toenail fungus.

While OTC treatments can be effective, they require consistent application and can take six months to a year to show results. It’s also important to continue the treatment for a few weeks after the infection has cleared to prevent recurrence.

Prescription Polishes and Creams

For more severe or persistent infections, your doctor may prescribe a stronger topical treatment. Prescription antifungal creams and polishes often contain higher concentrations of active ingredients, making them more effective than OTC options.

However, these treatments can also take time to work, and adherence to the treatment regimen is crucial for success. Side effects are generally mild but can include skin irritation or changes in the nail’s color or texture.

topical nail fungus treatment

3. Hot Laser Treatment

Hot laser therapy utilises a concentrated beam of light to generate heat. This heat penetrates the nail plate, targeting the fungus beneath. The goal is to raise the temperature enough to destroy the fungal cells without harming surrounding healthy tissue. You might feel a warming sensation during the procedure, but it’s generally painless.

Results: Promising, But Not Perfect

Studies suggest that hot laser therapy can be effective in treating fungal nails. The success rate varies, with some studies reporting clearance rates around 40-60%. However, it’s important to note that this treatment often requires multiple sessions, typically spread over weeks or months. Additionally, the new, healthy nail needs to grow out completely to reveal the full effect, which can take several months.

Potential Side Effects and Considerations

While generally safe, hot laser therapy can have some side effects. These may include temporary discomfort, redness, or minor swelling around the treated nail. In rare cases, there’s a risk of nail plate damage due to heat exposure.

Here are some additional things to consider:

  • Hot laser therapy may not be suitable for everyone, particularly those with certain medical conditions or who take medications that increase sun sensitivity.
  • Compared to topical medications, hot laser therapy can be more expensive.
  • Because it’s a relatively new treatment, long-term results and safety data are still accumulating.
Hot laser for toenail fungus

2. Oral Medication

Oral antifungal medications are often prescribed for more severe toenail fungus infections. These medications work systemically, meaning they circulate throughout the body to reach the site of the infection.

Common Prescriptions and Their Effects

The most common oral medication works by stopping the growth of fungi and is usually taken once a day for 6 to 12 weeks.

Alternatives work in a similar way but are usually taken in a series of pulses—taking the medication for a week, then taking a break for three weeks, and repeating the cycle. This can make the treatment process longer but can also reduce the risk of side effects.

Potential Side Effects and Considerations

Oral antifungal medications can have side effects, including headache, rash, and gastrointestinal upset. In rare cases, they can cause liver damage or interact with other medications.

It’s important to discuss these potential side effects with your doctor before starting treatment. Regular blood tests may be necessary to monitor your liver function while you’re taking these medications. Always take the medication as prescribed and report any side effects to your doctor immediately.

oral medication for nail fungus treatment

1. Cold Laser (Lunula)

Coming in at number one cold laser is by far the most superior treatment when comparing to all the other options currently available.

Unlike hot laser therapy, Lunula utilises a low-level laser that emits cool light. This gentle light penetrates the nail plate with two specific wavelengths:

  • 405nm (blue): This wavelength disrupts the fungus cell wall, weakening its defenses.
  • 635nm (red): This wavelength stimulates blood flow and activates the immune system’s response to target the weakened fungus.

The treatment itself is reported to be painless and takes about 12 minutes per foot.

Promising Results with a Gentle Touch

Studies suggest Lunula cold laser therapy offers an effective solution for fungal nails. Success rates range from 80% to 97%, often requiring fewer sessions compared to hot laser therapy. Additionally, the treatment boasts several advantages:

  • Painless: Unlike hot laser therapy, Lunula offers a comfortable experience.
  • Safe: The low-level laser is considered safe for most individuals.
  • No Downtime: You can resume your daily activities after the treatment.
  • Faster Treatment Sessions: Compared to hot laser therapy, Lunula treatments are typically shorter.

Considerations Before Taking the Leap

While Lunula appears to be a promising option, here are some things to keep in mind:

  • Nail Preparation is Key: The nail needs to be thinned and burred back to allow the laser to penetrate the nail bed (your podiatrist will do this) 
  • Multiple Sessions Needed: Like other fungal nail treatments, Lunula often requires multiple sessions spread over weeks or months.
  • Cost: Compared to topical medications, Lunula can be more expensive.
  • Not a Cure-All: As with other treatments, reinfection is possible. Maintaining good foot hygiene is essential.
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Conclusion

In conclusion, toenail fungus is a common but treatable condition. With a range of treatments available, from over-the-counter options to prescription medications and advanced therapies, there’s a solution for everyone. Remember, early treatment and ongoing prevention are key to maintaining healthy, fungus-free nails. Always consult with a healthcare provider before starting any treatment regimen.

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