Fungal toenail infections are a common foot health problem. Studies estimate that it afflicts 3-5% of the population; however, podiatrists believe that percentage is low because so many cases go un-reported and the incidence is much higher. Podiatrists treat approximately 2.5 million people annually, but that’s less than a quarter of the cases estimated by medical studies. The prevalence of fungal toenails rises sharply among older adults to 20 – 30%. The disease, characterized by a change in a toenail’s color and thickness is often considered ugly and embarrassing. Nail polish is an easy solution for many women, rendering the problem “out of sight, out of mind”, however this only makes the problem worse in the long run.
Over-the-counter topical nail fungus treatments can range from $20 to $50 per bottle and do not have controlled clinical trials supporting their effectiveness. Natural home remedies’ include the use of vinegar (apple cider and white), tea tree oil, baking soda, bleach, oil of oregano, Listerine, Vicks Vapor-rub, coconut oil and orange oil. While these options may be helpful for minor or early fungal toenail changes, they are rarely helpful in more advanced cases. Medical treatment options include the use of prescription topical medication such as Penlac, Jublia and Kerydin and oral medication like Lamisil and Sporanox. In office topical laser treatment is a non-medication option for the treatment of fungal toenails. Laser treatment involves 2-3 fifteen-minute non-painful treatments, each approximately one month apart. Theses methods carry the distinct advantage of medical trials to support their efficacy. Choosing which treatment option is best suited for a patient often depends on a combination of current medical and medication history, patient preference and cost.
However prevention is always preferred to treatment. The fungus, which causes the problem, is everywhere, especially in damp environments, causing the fungus to spread. Here are some tips in order to prevent fungal toenails from taking hold of your toenail. Limit or avoid toenail polish as it can trap moisture in the nail, don’t share shoes, don’t try on shoes without socks or stockings, keep your feet dry with the use of powder and or moisture absorbing socks, don’t go barefoot in public places and don’t cut your toenails too short.