Causes of Toe Nail Fungus

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    Features

    • Signs of a toenail fungus usually begin with small white or yellow spot on the nail. Eventually the spot begins to spread and the nail may have thickening, brittleness or become ragged looking. The toenail may become distorted or dull and darken in color as debris builds up under the nail. Sometimes the nail actually separates from the nail bed. If a nail becomes infected, it may be painful and have a foul odor.

    Causes

    • Nail fungal infections are typically caused by a fungus that belongs to a group of fungi called dermatophytes (Greek for "skin plants"), according to the Mayo Clinic. Foot fungus can also be caused by yeasts and molds and an imbalance in the body of good and bad bacteria. The lack of friendly bacteria called lactocacilli in the body can result in a fungal growth under and around the nail, according to the Dr. James Balch, author of "Prescription for Nutritional Healing."

    Significance

    • Toenailfungus.org estimates that more than 11 percent of the population has fungus of the toenails and that some people are more susceptible to nail fungus than others. People who have damaged a nail, do not practice good hygiene, have abnormal pH levels or have immune system problems are more likely to have nail fungus.

    Treatment

    • Treatment for nail fungus includes oral (pills) and topical (applied to the skin) medications. However, onychomyocosis is difficult to treat. The most effective oral medications for nail fungus are terbinafine (Lamisil) and itraconazole (Sporanox).
      An anti-fungal nail lacquer containing ciclopirox (Loprox or Penlac) may be used with an oral medication in extremely difficult infections.
      Home remedies include soaking feet in a solution of one-third vinegar and two- thirds water for 15 to 20 minutes. Rubbing Vicks VapoRub on nail fungus has been shown to clear up fungus, although no clinical studies have been done to explain its effect.
      In extreme cases, your doctor may suggest surgically removing a nail to treat a fungal infection.

    Prevention/Solution

    • To avoid a nail fungal infection or recurring infections, bathe your feet regularly. It's also suggested to wear cotton socks, keep nails trimmed, use anti-fungal foot powders, don't pick at your toenails, avoid nail polish and do not go barefoot in public places. If nail fungus is caused by an imbalance of good and bad bacteria, adding probiotic supplements to your diet may help.

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