Millions of people have had yellow, discolored, thickening and flaky nails. Many have tried all kinds of home remedies and OTC medications. Few have been cured.

You know from your dermatologist or podiatrist that the deformation of the nails on your toes was caused by a fungal nail infection, but what exactly is toenail fungus?

Onychomycosis (on-i-ko-mi-KO-sis) is a common nail disease caused by dermatophytes, yeasts, and nondermatophyte molds. Trichophyton rubrum, T mentagrophytes, and Epidermophyton floccosum are the most common etiologic agents worldwide. Candida spp are the most frequent among the yeasts. Traditional treatment strategies are based on oral antifungals: terbinafine, itraconazole, and fluconazole, including other emerging triazole drugs. Ciclopirox and amorolfine lacquers are widely used. Physical and chemical removal of the diseased toenails is a common podiatric procedure.

The classification of onychomycosis, infection of the nail apparatus caused by fungi, has changed over time with the recognition of new pathways of nail infection, new organisms, and new variations in the appearance of diseased infected nail. Published descriptions of nail morphology in fungal infection recognize the following forms of onychomycosis: distal and lateral subungual, superficial, endonyx, proximal subungual, mixed, totally dystrophic, and secondary onychomycosis.

Toenail Fungus Symptoms

Fungal infection may start with a white, yellow, brown and sometimes black spot under the tip of your fingernail or toenail. As fungi take over control of the nail bed, nails will turn:

  • thickened
  • brittle
  • crumbly or ragged
  • distorted in shape
  • dull, with no luster or shine
Debris will build up under your nails, as some of the infected nails may actually separate from the nail bed (onycholysis) creating an opening under the nail. Foul odor is common, as is itching and pain when walking or running.

What Does Toenail Fungus Look Like?

Nails infected by fungus look nasty and ugly:

What Is Toenail Fungus Caused By?

Nail fungal infections are typically caused by a fungus that belongs to a group of fungi called dermatophytes. But yeasts and molds also can be responsible for nail fungal infections.

What are fungi?

Fungi are microscopic organisms that don't need sunlight to survive. In fact they need very little to survive indefinitely. Some fungi have beneficial uses, while others cause illness and infection. These microscopic organisms:

  • live in warm and moist environments, such as swimming pools, showers, wet floors, shoes, etc.
  • can invade your skin through tiny visible or invisible cuts or through a small separation between your nail and nail bed and then reside comfortably in the nail bed - well protected by the nail plate
  • cause problems if your nails are continually exposed to physical abuse (athletes, especially soccer players and women wearing tight high heel shoes), warmth and moisture — conditions perfect for the growth and spread of fungi

Can You Cure Toenail Fungus With Home Remedies?

It is a common misconception that folk medicine can cure fungal nail infections. Vinegar, essential oils, peroxide, Vicks can help inhibit fungi from spreading but there is no evidence that these products can get under the nail and clear the nail bed from dermatophytes. Most of the cases that are advertised over the internet as cured by natural remedies are skin and nail diseases that mimic the looks of onychomycosis - but are not toenail fungus.

How Effective Are Topicals Advertised on the Internet?

There are many topicals sold on the web. Zetaclear, Purnail, Funginix are readily available for public. Formula 3, Penlac and similar products are marketed via physicians offices.

NONE of these products alone will eliminate fungus. The curative effect is very limited and peer reviewed studies show mixed and inconclusive results.

What Can Kill Toenail Fungus?

No monotherapies, i.e. single treatment modality, such as oral or topical medication, surgical removal of the nail or even one time laser treatment will be effective.

 

Comprehensive Laser Fungus Treatment