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Toenail Fungus

Toenail fungus. It's unsightly, embarrassing and most of all stubborn, often resisting all types of treatment and lasting for several years. While this condition usually surfaces in the nail of the big toe, there are several suggestions for treatment. Often, multiple treatments are needed to eradicate the fungus completely.

Toenail fungus, onychomycosis, is commonly seen in discoloration, thickening and flakiness of the nail. Pain, drainage or redness are fairly unusual. This type of infection is caused by a fungus. By itself, the infection will typically not cause any major issues other than being a cosmetic problem. The main conventional treatment for this type of toenail infection is the drug Lamisil, taken orally for 12 weeks. During the course of treatment, blood tests need to be done to check liver enzymes and ensure the drug is not affecting the liver. Success with this drug varies. Some may require two rounds of treatment and for many the drug is completely unsuccessful. 

The moist environment of the big toenail suits the fungus quite well. Toenails become a difficult area to treat, both because they remain moist with sweat and because it's difficult for an oral medication to be absorbed into the area to wipe out the infection quickly. The infection may set in after trauma to the nail.  Patients who have high blood sugar may also have problems with toenail infections; fungi thrive on sugar.

The successful treatment of a toenail fungus requires a multifaceted approach. Try to keep the area clean and dry. Avoid refined sugars and soft drinks. Diabetics need to control their blood sugar or the chances of eliminating the infection will be much lower.

Tea tree oil is a topical treatment that can be applied directly to the toe. This oil can be found in health food stores, and should be painted on the toenail three times a day. Like conventional Lamisil, tea tree oil should be applied for three months. Garlic in freeze-dried extract form can be taken with meals twice a day for three months for further benefit. Garlic could also be purchased from the grocery store and eaten. In addition, other nutritionally based anti-fungal supplements include Pau d'arco extract (150 mg twice a day), grapefruit seed extract (40 mg twice a day) and caprylic acid. For those watching the sweets and cutting back on soft drinks, these treatments may be enough, but not for everyonel. Milk thistle (one capsule, twice a day) may help protect the liver if you are taking Lamisil.

Some integrative physicians have equated yeast and fungal problems with increased heavy metal burden in the body. For those with concerns, treating the toenail fungus might be secondary to relieving the heavy metal burden. Though not widely discussed in conventional medical literature, many doctors associate yeast with mercury. Mercury exposure can come from a variety of places including some fish, coal-burning power plants and old silver amalgam fillings. Heavy metal issues should be explored by a physician comfortable dealing with this condition and resistant infections.