Updated: 2020

Though it is usually only discussed during sandal season, toenail fungus is a problem for many people throughout the year. The most common characteristics of toenail fungus is a discoloration to the nail, usually white, brown, or yellow. It also can cause the nails to become thick or crack. Since the fungus can spread, it might appear on one toe alone or multiple nails at the same time.

The treatment often given for toenail fungus is an oral prescription antifungal medication. While effective, these medications often have terrible side effects like stomach pain, headaches, dizziness, skin problems, and even jaundice. They require close medical supervision while taking and are generally recommended by our doctors as a last result. Instead, try some of these other options first.

Home Remedy Treatments

Vinegar

Soaking the affected toe or toes in a vinegar solution is a popular treatment option for combating toenail fungus. Mix one-part vinegar to two parts water to create the solution and soak for 20 minutes each day. While this is a commonly recommended at-home treatment, there is little clinical evidence to prove or disprove this treatment, it won’t do any harm to try.

Vicks VapoRub

Typically considered a cough suppression ointment, this product uses camphor and eucalyptus oil. In a small 2011 study, applying a small amount of the VapoRub to the toenail area had a positive clinical effect against fungus.

Listerine

Thanks to ingredients like menthol, thymol, and eucalyptus, Listerine is known for its antifungal and antibacterial properties. Many claim to have soaked their toes for 30 minutes in Listerine each day and gotten rid of toenail fungus. Again, while there is still no clinical evidence to support this treatment, it won’t hurt your foot to try.

Natural Oil Treatments

There are several oils that have been clinically tested that show they may be effective at treating toenail fungus. Here are some treatment options to consider.

Snakeroot extract

During the study, the participants applied this extract to the affected area for three months and found it to be as effective as ciclopirox, a prescription option. During the first month, it was applied every three days, twice a week during the second month, and once a week for the third month.

Tea tree oil (Melaleuca)

A small scale study showed that this oil is helpful for treating nail fungus, athlete’s foot, and acne. To try this method, use a cotton swab to paint the nail with oil twice a day.

Oregano oil

In a 2016 review, this oil was found to contain thymol, an antifungal and antibacterial treatment. To use, dip a cotton swab in the oil and paint the nail twice a day. Do not mix this oil with tea tree oil. Both are potent and can cause extreme irritation or an allergic reaction.

Olive leaf extract

There are two ways to treat toenail fungus with this extract- with a leaf salve applied to the toenail or as an extract in a capsule. While both seem to help, one review found that ingesting one to three capsules with meals two times a day is the most effective option of the two. Be sure to drink plenty of water during treatment.

Over the Counter Options

In many drugstores and online, you can buy effective treatments without a prescription. These treatments include antifungal creams and gels that are applied like lotion to the toenails or a nail polish product that is painted onto the affected nails. Because they have a milder compound, over the counter medications are recommended for mild cases of toenail fungus.

Other Professional Treatment Options

Prescription polish and creams

These medication options are often recommended to be used in conjunction with oral medication but can be prescribed separately.

Laser treatment

This can only be administered in a podiatrist office because it requires specialized training. A laser is used to zap specific areas of stubborn fungus to prevent their growth while killing it at the source. Since this isn’t covered by insurance, this is an expensive treatment, making it impractical for many people. However, for an extra tricky case of fungus, it may be worth a try.

How Long to See Results

Toenail fungus is hard to get rid of and generally takes a year to a year and a half to completely cure. Some of the above treatments can have noticeable results in only a few weeks but require months of consistent use for significant improvement. There is no treatment currently available that has immediate results, so be patient with whatever method you choose to try.

If you are dealing with a particularly tough case of toenail fungus, medical intervention may be necessary. In a worst-case scenario of advanced toenail fungus, it may be necessary to remove the toenail to treat the fungus at the source.

Contact us today to visit one of our podiatrists to go over your treatment options. Be prepared to talk about how long the fungus has lasted and what treatments have already been tried. After some discussion, the podiatrist can help recommend the best options for treatment for your case.