Top Home Treatments for Fungal Toenails

Jun 28, 2019

Did we get your attention? Good.

Now, we have a confession to make:

Home remedies—all home remedies—for fungal toenails have a mixed record at best. There is some evidence out there that they can work, for some people, in certain circumstances. But they usually require a lot of patience and dedication, and more than a little luck.

Furthermore, if you have diabetes or a weakened immune system, do not attempt home treatment on your own—come see us right away so we can help you mitigate the risk of further complications.

That said, if you are otherwise healthy and your toenail fungus still appears relatively mild and is not bothering you too much, you may feel inclined to try a couple of home treatments before moving on to physician-led options. But with so much misinformation out there, it’s hard to know where to start.

To make it easier for you, we’ve selected a handful of home treatments that, at the very least, should be safe and relatively pleasant to attempt. If they work for you, great! If not—or if you just want a faster, easier, and more effective solution—feel free to skip ahead to the “Professional Treatment” section below.

Top Home Treatments for Toenail Fungus

Topical Antifungal Medications

Topical antifungals are generally considered to be the top option for home-managed treatments if you aren’t going to be doing laser treatments or prescription medications (more on those later). We do carry over-the-counter topicals at our office specially designed for fungal nails, so all you need to do is stop by and pick some up.

We’re not going to lie to you, though: topical antifungals will take time to work. That’s because the nail itself makes a highly effective barrier against topical medications.

Medication should be applied directly to the nail and surrounding skin once per day. During the course of treatment, you’ll probably need to both trim and thin your toenails once per week. Thinner toenails are more accessible to the medication.

Even with daily application, it might take up to a year for optimal results to be achieved. So patience will definitely be required.

That being said, those who have the discipline to stick with the program faithful usually do achieve noticeable improvement in the appearance of their toenails.

Other Topical Products

Some other common over-the-counter products that have shown at least anecdotal success (with a few clinical studies suggesting positive effects) include Vicks VapoRub (applied once daily) and tea tree oil (applied twice daily using a cotton swab).

VapoRub, although originally formulated to suppress coughs, contains camphor and eucalyptus oil—which have antifungal and antiseptic properties. Tea tree oil is an essential oil that has similar properties.

Side effects from either ointment are relatively rare, but possible. Discontinue use if you notice rashes, skin irritation, or other issues.

Foot Soaks

There’s even less published evidence that any foot soaks work for fungal toenails, so we really can’t vouch for their efficacy.

Amber-colored Listerine contains antibacterial and antifungal ingredients, including menthol and eucalyptus, so there may be some benefit. We’ve also heard of people soaking their feet in a mix of one-part vinegar to two-parts warm water.

In either case, though, you’d probably have to soak your feet for up to 30 minutes per day to see some benefit—if there even is a benefit—and that’s a good chunk of time to give up for something that might not really work.

Professional Treatment

If the above home remedies seem a little discouraging to you, join the club. We’re not saying they can’t work. But the truth is that you have much better options when you have a podiatrist like Dr. Joel Foster guiding your treatment—especially if you seek help before the infection becomes severe or spreads to other toes.

Our top recommended treatment is a combination therapy involving laser treatment sessions at our office and “pulse dosing” of prescription oral antifungals. This treatment is not only well tolerated by the vast majority of patients, but is highly effective and relatively convenient.

Most people require three separate monthly sessions with the laser treatment, each one lasting about 20 minutes. The laser uses a highly specific wavelength that allows it to penetrate the nail barrier and kill the fungi without harming your skin or surrounding tissues.

This is augmented by pulse dosing the oral medications for one week per month. Combining these two therapies increases the effectiveness of the treatment. Plus, by restricting oral medications to only one week per month, we reduce the risk of side effects for those who might be more sensitive to them.

Although combination therapy is our overall most recommended treatment course, we of course can always adjust this based on the needs of the individual patient. Some people are sensitive enough to the oral antifungals that we just use laser therapy, or laser and topicals. Others choose to go with a full daily dose of the oral medications. We’ll help you weigh the benefits and risks of each approach so you can make an informed decision about your treatment.

If you’ve tried the home remedies and they just aren’t cutting it—or you simply want the fastest possible solution to your unsightly toenails—call our office today at (816) 246-4222.

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