When a nail develops a fungus it usually turns black or brown. But with a less common fungus, called white superficial onychomycosis, the nail turns white and becomes soft, dry and powdery. White nail fungus rarely goes away on its own. There are treatments available, but they require diligence and patience. According to InteliHealth, most people treated with an oral medication see the fungus clear up after 12 weeks of treatment. But the nail may never look normal again. Even with successful treatment, the fungus returns in about 20 per cent of people.
When a toenail develops white toenail fungus, it turns white and is dry and powdery in appearance. It may also have a bad odour. The nail may be painful. As the infection continues, the nail may crumble or fall off.
White nail fungus usually develops on nails that are continually exposed to warm, moist environments, such as sweaty shoes or shower floors. InteliHealth says almost anyone who regularly wears tight-fitting shoes or tight socks or hose is at risk of developing nail fungus. Another risk is wearing layers of nail polish, which keep the nails from getting air.
Toenail fungus is common among people who regularly use communal showers because the fungus can spread from foot to foot along the moist floor. This puts athletes, gym students and military personnel at risk. The condition also tends to affect people with diabetes or AIDS, as well as people with blood circulation problems that decrease blood flow to the toes. The big toe and the little toe are the most likely to get white toenail fungus. This may be because they are the most exposed to friction from the sides of shoes. Finally, white nail fungus can spread to the fingernails by touching the infected toenail.
White nail fungus requires a trip to the doctor for treatment. It will not go away on its own. The doctor will ask questions about foot hygiene and then take a small sample of the nail to examine and confirm that there is a fungal infection.
Treatment may begin with the doctor removing the nail or the infected part of the nail. He may also dissolve the nail with a special paste. If the infection is mild and limited to a small part of the nail, the doctor may prescribe an anti-fungal cream or a medicated nail polish. Both should be applied to the nail per the doctor's instructions.
If the infection is over a wider part of the nail or has spread to several nails, the doctor may prescribe an anti-fungal medication to take orally. Usually oral medications are taken daily for 12 weeks, or the strongest doses can be taken for one week a month for three months. In severe cases, the doctor may remove the nail surgically.
The Mayo Clinic mentions two home remedies for nail fungus that people may try when traditional medical treatment doesn't work. The first is vinegar treatment. There is no direct evidence to show that a vinegar soak can cure white nail fungus, but some studies have shown vinegar can slow the growth of some types of bacteria. The Mayo Clinic suggests soaking the feet for 20 minutes in a mixture of one part vinegar to two parts water. The other alternative treatment is Vicks VapoRub. There is only anecdotal evidence to support its effectiveness in treating white nail fungus. There is no consensus on how to apply the VapoRub, so anyone wanting to use it, should check with a doctor first.
There are several steps to take to prevent white nail fungus or reduce its chance of recurrence. One should keep the nails short, dry and clean, wear socks that wick away moisture and use an anti-fungal cream or powder. It is a good idea to wear thongs around public pools, showers and changing rooms. And when getting a professional manicure or pedicure, make sure to choose a salon that sterilises its instruments.