My Experience With Toenail Fungal Infection And Treatment

Around 5 years ago I noticed a yellow patch developing on the tip of my big toe.  As it was not painful I ignored it thinking it would simply grow out with time.  Unfortunately I was wrong.  What I had was a nail fungus infection – a very common nail disorder that affects around 8% of the adult population at any one time.  And one thing I now know about nail fungus is that it does not go away without treatment. Before I underwent any treatment, I always like to do some some reading about the treatment and the facts about the disease. Here is some facts I have learned through my little research:

The are four main types of nail fungus infection (Onychomycosis):

  1. Distal subungual onychomycosis is the most common form of fungal nail infection, and is usually caused by a fungus called Trichophyton rubrum, which invades the nail bed and the underside of the nail plate.
  2. White superficial onychomycosis is caused by fungal invasion of the superficial layers of the nail plate, on which it forms some isolated white patches. It accounts for only 10% of nail fungus infection cases. It is often misdiagnosed as keratin granulations – a reaction to nail polish that can cause the nails to have a chalky white appearance.
  3. Proximal subungual onychomycosis is fungal penetration of the newly formed nail plate through the proximal nail fold. It is the least common form in healthy people, but is found more commonly when the patient is immunocompromised (taking medication with steroids, having diseases that affect your immune system, such as AIDS).
  4. Candidal onychomycosis is Candida species invasion of the fingernails (also affects toenails), usually occurring in persons who frequently immerse their hands in water. This normally requires the prior damage of the nail by infection or trauma.

I had the most common form of infections – Distal subungual onychomycosis.  The fungus entered via the tiny gap that exists between the skin and the nail at the tip of the toe, and started to spread towards the cuticle.  The actual fungus is located in a “subungal” position, underneath the nail, which is one of the reasons why it is hard to treat.

Unsenitized manicure tools may transmit fungal infection

Fungal infection may be passed on by unclean tools

I think I developed the infection by visiting a low cost nail salon for a pedicure.  I subsequently learned that if nail instruments are not sterilized between clients, fungal infections can easily spread from person to person by indirect contact.  Of course I can’t be 100% sure that the pedicure was to blame.  I also used to suffer from athletes foot, where the fungus attacks the skin between the toes, and it could have spread to my toenail from there.

I experienced many false hopes during the last years – thinking that the fungus was receding.  It certainly did go through some dormant stages, especially during the summer months when my feet and toes were exposed to sunlight and spent less time cooped up in shoes and socks.  But after a few months it would always start to spread again.  Worse, the yellowish discoloration was accompanied by a loss of texture and increasing brittleness.  I also started to notice unpleasant looking debris starting to build up under the nail.

I researched several different options for treatment and finally came up with a medication that seems to be working, albeit very slowly.  It’s called Zetaclear and contains undecylenic acid, a known anti-fungal drug, as its active ingredient.  For the last few months I’ve been very careful at applying it twice a day to my nails, and I think it’s this consistency more than anything else that is making the difference.   Oral medications do exist for toenail fungus infections. But like all other oral drugs they do affect other parts of your body as well as trying to fight against your toenail fungus. And they have been associated with some quite serious side effects, including liver damage, I’d rather not take the risk.  That’s why I’m sticking to topical treatments.

I leave you with three pieces of advice when it comes to toenail fungus infections.  Information that I wish I had known 5 years ago.  I’d also recommend visiting fungusfacts.com as they have some good resources to help you stick to a regular treatment schedule:

  1. Don’t assume that toenail fungus will clear away on its own.  Start treatment as early as possible.
  2. Most topical treatments that contain antifungal drugs will work.  But you have to give them time to soak into the nail and reach the fungus.  The absolute key to successful eradication of the infection is your ability to stick to a consistent treatment schedule over several months.
  3. Continue treatment until a new, healthy nail has completely grown out.  Otherwise you run the risk of cross-infection.

Some more useful websites for your reading:

  • PubMed Health: Fungal Nail Infection – Points you to more information and related resources.
  • Wikipedia: Onychomycosis – Detailed information about this subject.
  • eMedicine: Onychomycosis – Useful reference, an overview of  nail fungus infections.

I hope you enjoy reading the article. At the very end, I have to attach a little disclaimer here as with any medical related topics:

This article is purely my personal research and experience on this topic, and in no way should be regarded as medical advice. My intention is to point you to some useful information so you can have a better understanding of the disease and its treatment. Please seek advice from medical professionals prior to your treatment. We are not liable for any errors, or damages of any kind that may result from use of, or reliance on, the information herein.