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The best treatment for nail fungus

closeup of male feet on floor
We explore the causes, symptoms and best treatment for nail fungus including lifestyle changes, natural options and over the counter products.

Fungal nail infections are not nice to think about, but they affect a great number of us, so it is important to know what to do with them.

They can look pretty unsightly, and they can hang around for quite a while, even when they have been treated.

What starts as a small white or yellow spot can soon become something that affects the whole nail, causing it to become painful and unsightly.

As with any such condition, the earlier you look after the nail and take the right measures to protect it, the better.

Nail fungus can sometimes affect the fingernails, but it is most common on the toes.

It is also something that can recur, particularly if your foot hygiene leads to sweaty feet or if you suffer from a skin condition such as psoriasis.

Having diabetes or a weakened immune system can also increase the likelihood of infections, as can smoking or foot injuries.

So, what is the best way to get rid of toenail fungus?

What is nail fungus?

A fungal nail infection is a common problem that usually affects the toenails and is also called onychomycosis.

These infections tend to start at the edge of the nail before spreading to the middle.

Once this happens, the nail can become discoloured and lifts off as it loosens and separates from the nail bed.

The nail is often brittle so it may come off whole, crumble or break into pieces. This is obviously painful and can cause some swelling of the skin around the nail.1

What causes toenail fungus?

As with any type of fungus, it is warm, damp conditions that allow it to develop.

That means if you wear footwear such as trainers for long periods of time, and have hot, sweaty feet, then you are more likely to develop this kind of problem.

Try to make sure you keep your feet clean and dry by throwing out old shoes and wearing clean socks every day.

If you visit the gym or a swimming pool, make sure you wear flip flops and do not share towels or nail clippers.

Fungal nail infections are caused by fungal organisms such as dermatophyte or yeast.

They can start from a complaint called athlete’s foot, which is a fungus that grows between the toes.

This then spreads to the nail itself if not treated adequately.

How do you get rid of nail fungus?

The most common antidote to nail fungus is an antifungal nail cream.

This is not a quick fix, as it can take up to 12 months for it to completely resolve the problem.

These creams penetrate into the surface of the nail to try and wipe out the infection and prevent the fungus from returning.

This can be applied to the nail several times a day until the nail has grown out.

You may also choose to use a nail-softening cream which is used over a period of a couple of weeks.

These often contain ingredients such as urea and allow the infection to be scraped off the nail.

Once you have softened the nail, try to trim or file it into a straighter shape.

Natural treatment options for nail fungus

There are many nail products which contain ingredients such as tea tree oil and undecylenic acid, which comes from the oil of the castor bean, as these are well-known for their antibacterial and antifungal properties.2

These products can be brushed onto the nail and underneath it, to help tackle the discolouration that occurs.

They are a great alternative to chemical-based solutions and offer a natural treatment for nail fungus with great results.

Another natural option is to soak your feet in a mixture of water and Epsom salt. This can help to heal fungus as well as reducing foot odour and having an amazing, relaxing effect on your muscles.

It can take a long time to get rid of a fungal nail infection, and you will know it is cured when you see a healthy nail growing through at the base.

If the infected nail does not respond to treatment or it spreads to other nails, then you should speak to your GP or pharmacist to rule out any underlying health concerns.

Last updated: 23 March 2021

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