3 Options for Treating Toenail Fungus

Warm weather is the time for flip-flops and sandals, but fungal infections of the toenail, also known as onychomycosis, often keep people from wearing open-toe shoes.  With spring and summer right around the corner, many of our patients are proactively seeking treatment for their toenail fungus. Treatments, while generally straight-forward, often take several months to rid the nail of fungus which is why it is important to seek treatment early.  This article will outline a few simple, effective remedies commonly used to treat toenail fungus, although the inclusion of a podiatrist in your treatment plan is always best.


Option 1 – Consult With a Podiatrist

  • Seek treatment early.  To prevent discoloration and an awful odor, it is best to get treated as soon as possible.  Playing the waiting game will only make the fungus more difficult to treat and increase the chances of recurrence and need for nail removal.  Like most infections, this will not go away on its own and home remedies are not always effective.

  • Be aware of common treatment methods.  Your podiatrist will likely suggest the best treatment method based off the severity of the infection and other relevant medical history. It is important to remember that most treatments take several months to show improvement, and only work if you follow the recommended plan religiously. 


    • Topical medications.  This includes creams, lotions, and liquids used to disinfect nails.  While it may take months for these medications to work, they are effective if you apply as the doctor recommends.

    • Oral medications are often used to fight infections, even for toenail fungus.  It is best to consult with your podiatrist and be sure that the drugs don’t interfere with any current health conditions you may have.

    • Antifungal lacquer is used sparingly.  Spread on the nail like nail polish, antifungal lacquer is an easy treatment that will require a prescription.

  • Follow your podiatrist’s instructions.  If you fail to follow your podiatrist’s treatment plan, infections will come back and may get worse.  If you are thinking about combining different treatment methods, be sure to discuss your thoughts with a podiatrist.


Option 2 – Caring For an Infected Nail

  • Let the infected toe breathe.  You want as much air flow as possible to keep the toe dry. Wearing sandals is a good way to keep your toes from soaking up sweat, but because the fungus can dissolve the nail and leave behind debris, you should clean them after wearing. Socks that are moist can breed the growth of fungus, so be sure to change socks daily.  Also, bleach your white socks after wearing them with an infected nail.

  • Avoid tight-fitting shoes.  They force the toes closer together, allowing the potential transfer of fungus from one nail to another.  This can create a warm, moist environment that breeds fungus.  It is a good idea to avoid wearing heels and best to wear shoes that let the toes breathe.

  • Dry feet thoroughly after getting wet.  After a shower, run, or other activities that leave your feet sweaty or wet, be sure to dry them off thoroughly.  This helps prevent the infection from worsening.  It is also important to keep your feet protected when using public pools, showers, etc. in order to decrease the chance of spreading the infection.


Option 3 – Alternative Methods

  • Understand the need for medical treatment.  Onychomycosis is difficult to treat and often needs to be cured over an extended period of time.  When treated incorrectly, the infection can easily come back.  While there are supplemental treatments that minimize pain and aid the eradication process, please consult with your podiatrist to ensure these treatments do not conflict with anything they have prescribed.

  • Carefully remove excess nail.  For severely infected toenails, it may help to soak the foot with affected toes in warm water for 20-30 minutes and then begin trimming the nail.  You may find the nail is no longer attached to your toe in places where fungus has accumulated and combined with the nail.  Carefully cut away all of the unattached nail and file off as much thick, flaky fungus as possible.  If you do this, a consistent care plan will be key to keeping the infection from worsening.

    • Never tear off toenails with your fingers.  Always use a clean nail clipper or long-handled nail scissors.  The best time to trim the nail is after a bath, shower, or foot soak, as this is when the nails are the softest.

    • If there is any pain involved, do not continue by yourself. See a podiatrist for proper removal to ensure that a healthy nail grows back.

  • Use a vapor rub, brand name or generic.  Use a vapor rub before putting on your socks, applying small amounts to the affected toe and toenails.  Make sure your toes are dry before applying the rub to avoid unwanted moisture.  This is a cheap and reliable method, however it can take an extended period of time.


  • Use water and vinegar.  Soaking your toes in a solution of water and vinegar for a half hour each night will help lower the pH of your toenails, making it difficult for the fungus to survive.  If you stay committed and do this every night for three to six months, you could see good results.



  • Use essential oils.  Applying a liquid oil consistently, both morning and night each day, can be an effective, natural way of curing your toenail fungus.  Many people have had success with 100% pure tea-tree oil.  Also, 5-10 percent of pure orange oil (not orange oil cleaner) in a mix of 50% vinegar and 50% rubbing alcohol applied with a medicine dropper can be effective.  Shake well before each use.  You want it to seep down into the exposed nail bed and in the sides and edges of the nail.  As the nail grows, carefully remove dead tissue for an environment that promotes healthy nail growth.


If you have tried all or most of these traditional methods and found them to be ineffective, you may want to consider laser treatment for toenail fungus. Of all the potential treatments, the fungus laser is often the most effective. A laser light is used to destroy the fungus that is in the nail bed itself.  Here at Midwest Podiatry Centers, we use Fotona’s FDA-approved, class 4 nail fungus laser. 


We are offering a limited time special price for laser treatment of toenail fungus - $99 per treatment. Click here for more details.


You can learn more about the laser here, and make an appointment by visiting our website or calling (612) 788-8778.

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