Over the last several years, nail fungus has garnered public attention completely out of proportion with its seriousness. The medical term, onychomycosis (oh-nick-o-my-CO-sis), is long and scary, but it just means fungal infection of the nail. Perhaps so many people are curious about this topic because nail fungus is very common. In addition, the development of new antifungal drugs that can treat (dare we say cure?) nail fungus has encouraged the pharmaceutical industry to advertise in magazines, in newspapers, and on television. The popularity of sexy sandals as footwear may also have contributed to the interest in treating nail fungus.
For diabetics, nail fungus is a medical issue. They need to be extremely vigilant about foot care and attend promptly even to things that may seem minor. For the rest of us, though, thick, yellow toenails that are crumbly or hard to cut are more of a nuisance than a serious health concern. They look ugly, and if they get very thick, they may be uncomfortable as well. Sometimes they split, which can be quite painful.
In our opinion, though, it would be a mistake to put your life on the line to clear up your funny-looking nails. That’s why we have collected so many home remedies for this problem. They probably won’t work for everyone, but they shouldn’t be very risky, either.
Nail fungus, particularly toenail fungus, is usually more of a nuisance than a serious medical problem. (For diabetics, however, nail fungus or any other foot problem qualifies as serious and requires medical care.) As a result, we feel comfortable in recommending that most people try home remedies first. We don’t have any data on how well they work, but the testimonials we have received indicate that they do work for some people. In addition, they are inexpensive and don’t cause dangerous interactions or reactions.
A person who needs a higher likelihood of cure may need a prescription for Lamisil. It is the most cost-effective of the prescription nail fungus drugs. Even so, it does not work for everyone, and it is not always appropriate. Some people may be taking other medicines that could interact with Lamisil. Others may be at risk of liver problems or complications such as lupus. Most of the time, nail fungus is a problem you can live with; some of the rare side effects could be deadly.
- Toenails grow slowly. It takes a year to a year and a half for them to grow out completely, so be very patient and persistent.
- After cutting fungus-infected nails, soak the clippers or scissors you used in alcohol for 15 to 20 minutes so you don’t spread the infection.
- Soak your feet in a footbath of one part vinegar to two parts water for 20 minutes a day.
- Mix cornmeal with hot water, allow it to cool to a comfortable temperature, and soak the affected nails for 1 hour once a week for at least a month.
- Squeeze vitamin E oil or tea tree oil around the cuticle and under the nail once or twice a day.
- Soak the feet in original Listerine or apply it daily to the affected nails.
- Smear Vicks VapoRub around and under the nail every day.
- Brew an infusion of Pau d’Arco for soaking the affected nails every day.
- Stick your toe in a lemon overnight to soften the infected nail for removal.
- If the nail needs to come off, ask your doctor about prescribing urea paste (40 percent).
- Lamisil is the most effective prescription pill for fighting nail fungus.