While it may begin as a small white spot underneath a fingernail or toenail, a fungal infection can spread, causing the nail to thicken, turn a different colour or crumble. Medications are available to clear the nail fungus (which is known as onychomycosis) and help relieve pain.
A doctor can prescribe an antifungal medication in order to help clear up the nail infection and prevent further spread. These medications are considered considerably more effective than over-the-counter remedies, and include: • itraconazole (Sporanox) • fluconazole (Diflucan) • terbinafine (Lamisil)
These antifungal medications do not eliminate the fungus itself, but instead should help grow a healthy new nail. The medications should be taken for 6 to 12 weeks, but may require four months' time or more in order to be effective.
Side effects from these medications include mild rash to liver damage. You should inform your doctor of all medical conditions and medications you are currently taking to ensure the antifungal medication will not interfere with these.
If a person has a medical condition or takes medication that prevents the use of antifungal medications, a doctor may prescribe an antifungal nail lacquer instead. Similar to a nail polish, the lacquer is painted on the nail and skin surrounding it. Known as ciclopirox (Penlac), the medication is applied for seven days in a row, then removed with alcohol. The application process is begun again the next week. The length of treatment for this process may be up to a year, which still does not guarantee effectiveness.
For those wishing to heal their nail faster, even when taking oral medications, a doctor may recommend combining this medication with over-the-counter topical medications. These are applied to the nail and surrounding skin, and may be absorbed into the nail and reduce the amount of crumbling and discolouration of the skin.
Some natural remedies exist in the treatment of nail infection. These include soaking the nails in a basin containing 2 quarts of warm water and 1 cup of apple cider vinegar.
Oregano oil, while strong and irritating, has powerful antifungal properties. The oil should be diluted in olive oil or aloe. The oil combination should be applied with a toothbrush or Q-tip daily until the infection has disappeared.