Nail fungus infections are difficult to treat, and repeat infections are extremely common. Toenail fungus treatments are many and there are a large number of over-the-counter antifungal nail creams and ointments that are untested and not very effective. If you have athlete’s foot as well as nail fungus, you should treat the athlete’s foot with one of the reputable topical medications and be certain to keep your feet clean and dry.
- Antifungal lacquer. If you have an extremely mild infection of nail fungus, your doctor may prefer to prescribe an antifungal nail polish called ciclopirox (Penlac). Applications is simply painting it on the infected nails and surrounding skin once a day. Every 7 days, the patient wipes the piled-on layers clean with alcohol and begins fresh applications. Daily use of Penlac for about one year has been shown to help clear up some nail fungal infections but the treatment is rather expensive and not covered by most medical insurances.
- Topical medications. Your doctor may also opt for a topical antifungal medication. Topical medications are often the most effective way to treat mild to medium level infections of nail fungus. These toenail fungus treatments are often more affordable and very easy to use solutions compared with other forms of treatments.
To treat nail fungus, a medical professional may prescribe an oral antifungal medication. Studies have shown that the most effective treatments are terbinafine (Lamisil) and itraconazole (Sporanox). The downside to oral medications is that they frequently expose a person to heavier and potentially dangerous side effects particularly if the patient has pre-existing medical conditions.
Oral medications will more than likely be prescribed if a patient:
- Has diabetes or other risk factors for cellulitis
- Has a history of cellulitis
- Is experiencing pain or discomfort from the nail fungal infection
These medications will often help a new nail grow free of infection, slowly replacing the infected portion of the nail. Typically, these medications from six to 12 weeks at a minimum, but you won’t see the end result of treatment until the nail grows back completely. It can take up to a year to eliminate a heavily entrenched infection. Recurrent infections are possible, especially if you continue to expose your nails to warm, moist conditions.
Antifungal drugs may cause side effects ranging from skin rashes to liver damage. Doctors may not recommend them for people with liver disease or congestive heart failure or for those taking certain medications.
- If the nail fungus infection is severe or extremely painful, a medical professional may suggest removing your nail. A new nail will usually grow in its place, though it will come in slowly and may take as long as a year to grow back completely. Sometimes surgery is used in combination with a topical solution of some kind to treat the nail bed.
Treating nail fungus with a laser or photodynamic therapy — intense light irradiates the nail after it’s been treated with an acid — may also be successful. However, this new toenail fungus treatment may not be available everywhere and there are no complete studies of the long-term effectiveness of this treatment.