Nail fungus is a common condition that can cause discomfort and embarrassment. It’s caused by a fungal infection in one or more nails and can result in discolored, thickened, brittle, or deformed nails. While it’s not usually serious, nail fungus can be challenging to treat and take a long time to clear up. In this article, we’ll explore the causes and symptoms of nail fungus and proven tips and remedies for preventing and treating it.
Causes and Symptoms of Nail Fungus
A fungal infection causes nail fungus in one or more nails. The fungus thrives in warm, moist environments, such as locker rooms and swimming pools, and can be spread through direct contact with an infected nail or by sharing nail tools. While anyone can get nail fungus, it’s more common in older adults, people with diabetes, and those with weakened immune systems.
Symptoms of nail fungus include:
- Discolored nails (yellow, brown, or white)
- Thickened nails
- Brittle or crumbly nails
- Deformed nails
- Foul odor
If you notice any of these symptoms, starting treating your nail fungus as soon as possible is essential. While it’s not usually severe, untreated nail fungus can lead to more serious infections or spread to other nails.
How to Prevent Nail Fungus
Preventing nail fungus is the best way to avoid dealing with it altogether. Here are some tips for keeping your nails healthy and fungus-free:
- Keep your nails clean and dry. Wash your hands and feet regularly and dry them thoroughly, especially between the toes.
- Wear breathable shoes and socks. Choose shoes made of breathable materials, such as leather or canvas, and wear socks made of moisture-wicking materials, such as acrylic or polyester.
- Don’t share nail tools. Avoid sharing nail clippers, files, or other tools with others.
- Avoid walking barefoot in public places. Wear sandals or shower shoes in public, locker rooms, and swimming pools.
- Use antifungal sprays or powders in shoes. Spray or sprinkle antifungal powders or sprays inside your shoes to help prevent fungus from growing.
Following these tips can help reduce your risk of developing nail fungus. However, several remedies and treatments can help if you develop nail fungus.
Natural Remedies for Nail Fungus
While plenty of over-the-counter and prescription treatments are available for nail fungus, many people prefer to try natural remedies first. Here are some of the most popular natural remedies for beating nail fungus:
Tea Tree Oil
Tea tree oil is a popular natural remedy for nail fungus. It has antifungal and antiseptic properties that can help fight the fungus. To use tea tree oil, apply a few drops of undiluted tea tree oil directly to the affected nail and surrounding skin twice daily. You can also mix a few drops of tea tree oil with carrier oil, such as coconut or olive oil, and apply it to the affected nail.
Soaking your nails in equal parts vinegar and water can help kill the fungus. Vinegar has acetic acid, a natural antimicrobial agent that can help fight the fungus. To use vinegar:
- Mix equal parts white vinegar and warm water in a bowl.
- Soak your affected nails in the solution for 15-20 minutes once a day.
- After soaking, rinse your nails with water and dry them thoroughly.
Coconut oil is another natural remedy with antifungal properties. To use coconut oil, apply a small amount to the affected nail and surrounding skin twice daily. Coconut oil contains lauric acid, which has antifungal properties that can help fight the fungus. Mix a few drops of tea tree oil with coconut oil for an even more effective remedy.
Other Natural Remedies
Other natural remedies for nail fungus include oregano oil, garlic, and probiotics. Oregano oil contains thymol, which has antifungal properties and can be applied directly to the affected nail. Garlic has antifungal properties and can be added to your diet or applied directly to the affected nail. Probiotics can help restore balance to the gut microbiome, which may help prevent nail fungus from developing.
While natural remedies may be effective for some people, it’s important to note that they may not work for everyone. Additionally, natural remedies may take longer than over-the-counter or prescription treatments.
Over-the-Counter and Prescription Treatments for Nail Fungus
If natural remedies don’t work, plenty of over-the-counter and prescription treatments are available. Here are some of the most common options:
Types of Over-the-Counter Treatments
- Antifungal creams: Over-the-counter antifungal creams, such as clotrimazole and terbinafine, can be applied directly to the affected nail.
- Antifungal nail polish: Antifungal nail polish, such as ciclopirox, can be used like regular nail polish and is effective for mild to moderate cases of nail fungus.
- Antifungal sprays or powders: Antifungal sprays or powders, such as tolnaftate and miconazole, can be used in shoes and on feet to help prevent and treat nail fungus.
- Oral antifungal medications: Prescription antifungal medications, such as terbinafine and itraconazole, are taken orally and are typically more effective than over-the-counter treatments.
- Antifungal nail lacquer: Prescription antifungal nail lacquer, such as efinaconazole and tavaborole, is applied directly to the affected nail and can be effective for mild to moderate cases of nail fungus.
Over-the-counter and prescription treatments have pros and cons, so discussing your options with your doctor is essential.
Lifestyle Changes to Combat Nail Fungus
In addition to using treatments and remedies, there are some lifestyle changes you can make to help combat nail fungus:
- Maintain a healthy diet and exercise routine. A healthy diet and regular exercise can help boost your immune system, which can help fight off nail fungus.
- Practice good hygiene. This includes washing your hands and feet regularly and trimming and cleaning your nails.
- Don’t wear nail polish or artificial nails. Nail polish and artificial nails can trap moisture, creating an ideal environment for fungus to grow.
By making these lifestyle changes, you can help prevent and treat nail fungus.
When to See a Doctor
If your nail fungus doesn’t improve with home remedies or over-the-counter treatments, it’s time to see a doctor. Your doctor may prescribe a stronger medication or recommend other treatment options. Additionally, if you have diabetes or a weakened immune system, seeing a doctor as soon as possible is vital if you notice any signs of nail fungus.
Nail fungus can be a frustrating and embarrassing, but with the right tips and remedies, you can beat it and achieve healthy, beautiful nails. Remember to practice good hygiene, wear breathable shoes, and keep your nails trimmed and clean. Feel free to see a doctor if natural remedies and over-the-counter treatments don’t work. With patience and persistence, you can unlock the secret to healthy nails.