Effective Ways to Deal with Toenail Fungus

Disclaimer: This article is for informational and educational purposes only and does not substitute professional medical advice. It is important to always consult a medical professional for any health issues.

An infection that gets through the cracks in the nails or cuts in the skin is referred to as toenail fungus. It can cause nail discoloration and thickening, which is sometimes embarrassing for a lot of people to show their toes in public when going out. Aside from that, toenail fungus may also cause pain, which can make an individual very uncomfortable, particularly when wearing shoes.

Not all cases of toenail fungus hurt, and there are other people who are not bothered by the yellow, thick nails that it causes. However, keep in mind that nail fungus does not go away by itself. If left untreated, toenail fungus may spread to other nails, skin, or even fingernails fast. That is why when you acquire toenail fungus, it is very important to get it treated immediately to prevent further issues.

Luckily, there are various ways to choose from in order to treat toenail fungus. If you are curious about these, you’re in the right place. In this post, we are giving you some effective ways to deal with toenail fungus.

Toenail Fungus and Its Symptoms

toenail fungus

Toenail fungus is also referred to as onychomycosis. It is a common fungal infection that affects the toenail. They are very common and may affect up to 14% of the general population. In fact, they are more common compared to fungal fingernail infections. [1] It happens when fungi get between the toenail and the toenail bed or the tissue underneath the toenail. It often occurs through a crack or cut in the toe.

A toenail fungal infection may affect part of the nail, the whole nail, or several nails. Some of the common signs and symptoms of toenail fungus include:

  • a distorted nail that may lift off from the nail bed
  • an odor coming from the infected nail
  • a thickened or brittle nail

Most fungal nail infections are not serious, but some may experience pain or become bothered by the appearance of their nails. The condition may cause the nails to become discolored, thick, or cracked, and the nail may also become separated from the nail bed. Most people who acquire toenail fungus usually have a fungal skin infection on the foot, particularly between the toes, commonly referred to as athlete’s foot, tinea pedis, or ringworm on foot.

Causes of Toenail Fungus

Small, microscopic organisms called fungi are what cause a toenail fungal infection. A lot of people acquire it when they have skin-to-skin contact with someone who has a fungal infection, like an athlete’s foot or ringworm. In addition to that, another common way to get a toenail fungal infection is by walking barefoot in warm, moist areas, such as locker rooms and pool decks. It’s because fungi thrive in warm and moist places. You may also get it by sharing an infected towel or nail cutter.

Toenail fungus can also develop if your nails are always moist or if you usually wear sweaty socks and shoes. The fungi may infect your toenail by getting into a small cut in the skin that surrounds the nail, a crack in your nail, and a separation between the nail and toe. The spot under the nail provides fungi a warm and moist place to grow, and they can spread to other nails and even your skin if not treated immediately. [2]

Ways to Treat Toenail Fungus

doctor treating patient with toenail fungus

Toenail fungus is quite challenging to treat. Sometimes, it may take several months to get rid of the fungus fully. But it also often comes back. The best option is to visit a skin specialist and foot doctor, such as a dermatologist or a podiatrist as they can explain the right treatment options depending on your condition. Below are some of the ways to treat toenail fungus: [3]

Oral Antifungal Medication

Doctors may prescribe you an oral antifungal medication to treat toenail fungus. Some of the popular options include terbinafine, itraconazole, or fluconazole. These medicines are usually taken daily for a few months or longer. Your doctor may also test your blood to check for potential medication side effects. Keep in mind that these medicines may affect your liver and may interact with other medications. That is why oral antifungal medicines are not for everyone.

Topical Medication

If you can’t take oral antifungal medication, a safer option is to use topical medications. These are gels, ointments, or creams that are regularly applied right onto the affected nail. These treat the fungus over time. Topical medications can also be more effective when paired with oral medications that are prescribed by doctors.

You may also check out our Guide to Selecting Creams to Deal with Fungal Infections for the best recommendations.

Laser Treatments

There are some doctors who use high-tech laser beams and special lights that are directed at the toenail in order to treat the fungus. This is approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) for a temporary increase of clear nails in nail fungus. However, it is not considered a cure for toenail fungus. It’s because cure rates for laser treatments are lower compared to oral and topical medications. Laser treatments are also not used as first-line treatments for toenail fungus.

Home Remedies for Toenail Fungus

In addition to treatments given by doctors, there are also a few home remedies that you can try when it comes to dealing with toenail fungus. These are great for those who can’t take medications due to their side effects that may upset the stomach, cause dizziness, and more. To learn more about these, below are some at-home remedies for toenail fungus: [4]

Snakeroot Extract

This is an antifungal extract made from plants in the sunflower family. According to a study done in 2008, it is an effective remedy against toenail fungus. It was applied to the affected nail every third day for a month, twice a week for another month, and once a week for the third month.

Tea Tree Oil

This is an essential oil that contains antifungal and antiseptic abilities. Based on the National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health, a few small-scale studies showed that it might be effective against toenail fungus. [4] It just needs to be applied directly onto the affected area twice daily using a cotton swab.

Listerine Mouthwash

This type of mouthwash has menthol, thymol, and eucalyptus, which all have antibacterial and antifungal properties. That is why it is among the popular fold remedy for toenail fungus. Based on the supporters of this remedy, soaking the affected foot in a basin of Listerine for 30 minutes daily is effective.


According to a study done in 2009, garlic has some antifungal and antimicrobial capabilities. Toenail fungus may be treated with garlic by placing chopped or crushed garlic cloves on the affected area for 30 minutes a day. Some also use garlic capsules instead, as they are less smelly.

Antifungal Nail Polish

Some people cover up their toenail fungus using specialty nail polish or antifungal nail polish. This type of nail polish usually includes garlic, lavender oil, tea tree oil, biotin, and more. This way, it can cover up the affected nail while helping you treat the infection. Keep in mind that it is not recommended to cover up the affected nail with normal nail polish as it can make the infection a lot worse and more difficult to treat.

Diet Adjustment

The connection between diet and health is clear, the healthier the foods you consume, the better chance your body has to fight off bacteria and fungi. Therefore, it may help treat toenail fungus if you give your body the nutrients it needs by eating foods rich in probiotics, protein, iron, essential fatty acids, calcium, and vitamin D. Some of these include yogurt and low-fat dairy products.

However, keep in mind that some of these home remedies still need further research and evidence for them to be proven true. Also, if it works for other people, it does not mean that it will work for everyone. It is still best to consult with your doctor for the best possible treatments for toenail fungus.

How to Prevent Toenail Fungus

person using a nail clipper

There is actually no way to guarantee that you won’t get toenail fungus. But there are some important things and steps that you can take which may help prevent it. Below are some of them:

     Do not go barefoot in public areas like locker rooms, swimming pools, and public showers. It’s because most people pick up fungus in these places. Always wear shoes or flip-flops in these public spaces.

    If a family member has foot fungus or nail fungus, it is better to use a different shower or wear flip-flops when taking a bath to avoid coming in contact with it.

    Be careful when clipping your nails because trauma due to accidental or aggressive clipping of the nails may turn into portals of entry for the fungus.

–     If it is difficult for you to reach your toenails for trimming, check out our list of Ways to Cut Toenails When You Can’t Reach Your Feet for the best tips.

    Before using a nail clipper or trimmer, make sure that you clean it well.

    Make sure to follow all foot care recommendations from your doctor if you have diabetes.

    Always keep your feet dry, and ensure that you fully dry them after showering.

    Before cutting your toenails, soak them in warm water first. Cutting your nails after showering or bathing is also a good idea.

    Always wear shoes that fit properly. They should not be too tight or too loose around the toes.

  Avoid sharing personal items with other people. When visiting nail salons, pick one that is clean and licensed by your state’s cosmetology board. You also need to ensure that the salon sterilizes its instruments after each use. Better yet, bring your own nail instruments to be safe.


Toenail fungus is a common fungal infection that affects a lot of people. While it is not usually painful, it can make people feel self-conscious about how their nails look. It can also be quite difficult to treat and may become worse if not cured immediately. Therefore, it is always best to consult with your healthcare provider about the effective treatment options available for toenail fungus. We hope this post helped you learn more about the effective ways to deal with toenail fungus.


[1] Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, E. (2022, September 13). Fungal nail infections. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Retrieved February 19, 2023, from https://www.cdc.gov/fungal/nail-infections.html

[2] American Academy of Dermatology Association, E. (2022). Nail fungus: Who gets and causes. American Academy of Dermatology. Retrieved February 19, 2023, from https://www.aad.org/public/diseases/a-z/nail-fungus-causes

[3] Cleveland Clinic, E. (2022, August 11). Toenail fungus (onychomycosis/tinea unguium): Symptoms & causes. Cleveland Clinic. Retrieved February 19, 2023, from https://my.clevelandclinic.org/health/diseases/11303-toenail-fungus

[4] McDermott, A. (2022, October 10). 10 home remedies for Toenail fungus. Healthline. Retrieved February 19, 2023, from https://www.healthline.com/health/home-remedies-for-toenail-fungus