Signs and Symptoms of Nail Fungus
Nail fungus (also referred to as onychomycosis) is a condition that occurs when fungi begin to infect your nails. Toenail fungus is the most common form of this infection, but the condition can also affect fingernails. At the early stages of the infection, the fungus will create a small white or yellow spot under the tip of the nail. As the infection spreads, the entire nail may thicken and distort in shape. The edges of the nail will also start to crumble and the nail will begin to change to yellow or green, and occasionally brown or black. In some situations, the nail can even separate and lift off from the nail bed (this is referred to as onycholysis).
If you suspect that you are developing nail fungus, it is best to see your doctor. You can also try some of the home remedies listed below. If left untreated, nail fungus can be painful and it can also cause your nails to become permanently damaged.
Causes of Nail Fungus
Fungi thrive in environments that are warm, moist, and dark. This is one of the main reasons that toenail fungus is so common, since our shoes fit the description of this ideal environment. Men are affected by nail fungus more often than women, and these infections are quite common among older adults due to reduced blood circulation. Other common risk factors include the following:
- Diabetes: this reduces circulation and suppresses the immune system, which increase the risk of toenail fungus.
- Psoriasis: having this skin condition can increase the chances of developing nail fungus.
- Public Places: walking barefoot in damp public places such as gyms, showers, or swimming pools will increase your nail fungus risk.
- Moist Environment: if you work in a humid or moist environment each day, or if you perspire heavily on a regular basis, can increase your chances of developing a fungal nail infection.
- Injuries: having a skin injury near your nail, or even having a damaged nail, can allow fungi to penetrate and cause an infection.
- Long Nails: it is better to keep your nails trimmed and short to eliminate the environment that fungi prefer.
Home Remedies and Natural Treatments for Nail Fungus
Apple Cider Vinegar
Studies have found that Apple Cider Vinegar can inhibit the growth of nail fungus. Simply mix 1 part vinegar and 2 parts of warm water, and then soak your hands or feet for 15 to 20 minutes once per day. When you are finished, be sure to rinse and dry properly. If you notice any skin irritation due to the Apple Cider Vinegar, you can either reduce the frequency of soaking to 2 or 3 times a week, or you can dilute the vinegar by adding more water (such as 3 parts water for 1 part of vinegar).
Manuka Oil is an excellent home remedy for toenail fungus. Apply a few drops of Manuka oil directly onto the affected feet twice daily and cover them with fine cotton fabric or cotton socks for at least 30 minutes. You can also mix 10 drops of Manuka Oil into 2 quarts of lukewarm water, and then soak your feet for 15 minutes once per day. This can help prevent the fungal infection from progressing.
Castor Oil is another oil that has been found to be effective at treating nail fungus infections. Simply soak an unbleached cotton cloth with Castor oil, and wrap it around the infected feet overnight. You can place some plastic sheet under your feet in order to prevent the oil from affecting your bed sheets or mattress.
Although it is not clear why, many people have found that Vicks VapoRub can help treat toenail fungus if used continuously over a few months. A theory is that the active ingredients in the product (menthol, eucalyptus, camphor) can help prevent the growth of fungus. Therefore, a simple remedy is the following:
- Before bedtime, soak your feet in warm water for 15 to 20 minutes.
- Dry your feet, and then apply Vicks VapoRub all over the toenail (above and under the tip) and also all over the feet.
- Put on a pair of cotton socks and go to bed. This is to prevent the Vicks VapoRub from staining your sheets.
Note that this is a slow remedy, but many people have found it to be effective when used diligently over the course of 3 to 6 months.