July 3, 2009

Home Remedies For Treating Discoloration Of Toenails

Posted in Category : Natural Cures

While most people will simply brush off a discolored toenail by believing that there is no more to it than a reduction of aesthetic appeal, a discolored toenail could point to something actually being very wrong. Unless there is a better explanation such as trauma to the nail which resulted in bleeding and thus blackening under the nail, there is a very high possibility of there being a fungal nail infection. Some other possibilities for the discoloration include a bacterial growth under the nail or the excessive use of nail polish. In rare cases the appearance of nails may also be affected by certain chronic conditions. Diabetes, kidney disease, and heart or lung conditions may at times cause specific changes in the nail color. There are different varieties of fungi that could be responsible for a toenail fungus infection, but the most common is Trichophyton rubrum. This is the most common type of fungal infection belonging to a group of fungi classified as dermatophytes because they infect the skin. Other common infections caused by the same group of fungi include jock itch, athlete’s foot and ringworm among others. The fungal infection is therefore likely to infect the skin beneath the toenail causing discoloration of the toenail. This is the main reason why toenail fungal infections are so hard to treat and resilient to most toenail fungus home treatments. Most home treatments for toenail fungus comprise of topical applications and since the fungi are shielded by the thick toenail most toenail fungus home remedies are quite ineffective. This leads us to question how to get rid of damaged toenails or discolored toe nails. Toenail fungus will tend to invade the nail and result in not only a discoloration of the nail but a noticeable splitting, thickening and separation of the nails as well. The nail discoloration will generally start from the nail bed and work its way up to the upper layers of the nail and only stop when the entire nail has been damaged. The fungus could cause brown, yellow or even black discoloration in the toenail. Once the fungal infection has damaged the toenail to an advanced extent, even the most successful remedies will take a substantial amount of time to show results. As a result, taking care of the toenail when you first notice the condition starting to develop is essential in the curing process.

A toenail fungus infection sets in when one or more of your nails gets infected with the fungi, and this will usually begin with the appearance of an inconspicuous white or yellow spot just beneath the tip of your toenail. A toenail fungus infection would then spread deeper and as it progresses you will notice toenail discoloration and thickening and it becomes crumbly. Discolored nails or brown toenails are however the least of your worries as the condition can also be quite painful and unsightly. Keep in mind that toenail fungal infections are highly contagious and can easily spread not just from one toenail to the others, but also to the fingernails. There is also a risk of passing on the infection to others, which is why strict hygiene practices need to be set in place.

Although toenail fungus home treatments may be of some help if the infection is detected early enough these treatments may not always be effective and the results often vary from individual to individual. Neglecting the condition or using ineffective treatments allows the infection to persist and deepen, making it harder to treat and more resilient to treatment. For this reason it is best to seek medical advice and treatment as soon as you notice the first signs of infection. Toenail fungus home treatments can be used as a supplement to conventional medications to facilitate and hasten the recovery process, which is painfully slow. Topical creams as well as medication may be necessary in order to cure a severe toenail fungal infection.

Causes and risk factors:

Toenail fungal infections are usually caused by dermatophytes, but yeasts and molds can also cause fungal infections of the nails. No matter which group of toenail fungi is responsible for the infection, all of them need warm and moist environments to survive. Outside of your body these fungi would therefore thrive in environments like swimming pools, showers and gymnasiums. There is obviously a higher chance of contamination in public pools, baths, showers, and gyms because of the large numbers of people that frequent these facilities. These fungi can then easily enter your skin to cause fungal infections. The fungi will only thrive if your nails provide them with the perfect habitat. Typically, the feet are cloaked in socks and shoes most of the day, keeping them warm and moist, making toenail infections most common. Here are some of the risk factors that could increase your susceptibility to toenail fungal infections:

  • Age: Elderly individuals may be at higher risk because of diminished circulation to the toes, slower nail growth and thickening of the nails.
  • Perspiration:People who perspire heavily are at greater risk because of the moisture.
  • Environment: Those who spend most of their time in a moist or humid environment are more susceptible to toenail fungal infections.
  • Attire: Wearing socks and shoes that don’t allow for much ventilation for prolonged periods significantly increases the risk of a toenail fungus infection.
  • Staying barefooted: Walking barefooted in public showers, baths, gyms and swimming pools is also known to increase the risk of contracting a toenail fungus infection.
  • Other infections or injuries: The presence of another fungal infection or even a damaged toenail or skin injury increases your risk of picking up a toenail fungus infection.
  • Health conditions: Ailments like diabetes or poor circulation and a weakened immunity can also increase susceptibility.
  • Poor hygiene: Sharing of personal items like linen and towels, and particularly footwear significantly increase the risk of infection.

Homemade Treatment

Toenail fungus infections are not only persistent and resilient, but they are also often recurring. This makes them very difficult to treat with home remedies and toenail fungus natural cures. Over the counter ointments and topical applications are also not very effective and the only advisable action would be to visit a doctor. Home remedies for toenail fungus infections and over the counter topical treatments may offer some help in mild cases of toenail fungus infections or in the initial stages with discolored toenails. Your doctor would most likely treat the infection with oral medications and a combination of topical applications. You can also use some toenail fungus home remedies like hot water soaks with essential oils like tea tree oil added in. Simply fill a basin with some hot water and add a few drops of the oil to it before soaking your feet. Similarly you can prepare a soak with vinegar and water in the proportions of 1:2.

Self care measures are the most important aspect of home treatment and are essential whether or not you are using medical treatments. Make sure you always keep your feet clean and dry and avoid using socks or closed shoes for extended periods. Stick to wearing cotton socks. Never share your footwear and avoid walking barefooted at all times. Before donning any kind of footwear make it a point to dust them and your feet with some antifungal powder. Keep your toenails short and clean and avoid using shared nail trimmers.

Tea Tree Oil &Toenail Fungus

Toenail fungus is relatively hard to eliminate and requires being treated with anti fungal medications or topical anti fungal medications. However, since prescription drugs are relatively expensive, a lot of people choose to treat the condition with the use of natural topical remedies. Some of the best home remedies incorporate the use of tea tree oil, which is known to have tremendous anti fungal properties. Soaking your feet in a tub filled with an anti fungal oral mouthwash is also known to show significant improvements in the condition as a result of its anti fungal properties. This method also helps restore the nail to its original color, however, much like the development of the condition, the recuperation is gradual and results will only be seen over a period of time. In order to prevent the onset of the condition, it is advisable that you avoid walking barefoot in public shower facilities, locker rooms, or rest rooms as the dark, warm and most environments of these locations provide the optimum conditions for fungus to spread and breed. Instead, make sure that your feet are clean and dry at all times and avoid the sharing of shoes or socks.