Treatment is not necessary for mild infections. However, antifungal medications are required for severe cases. Following are few things that may be tried to prevent the infection from spreading or getting worse.
- Keep feet and hands dry and clean
- Wear shoes that fit well and use cotton socks
- Keep nails short
- Do not share socks or towels and ensure to wash them regularly
- Do not walk barefooted in public showers & locker rooms. Protect feet with shower shoes
- Replace old footwear
- Immediate treatment for athlete’s foot may also help
Antifungal medications are available as tablets or as a nail paint, which is applied to the nail that is infected. Itraconazole and terbinafine are the tablets that are mostly prescribed for nail fungus which are usually taken for many number of months before complete cure is achieved. In you discontinue taking the medicine too early, there is a possibility that the fungal infection might return.
These tablets may have side effects like rash, headache, diarrhoea and itching. Therefore, if you are not ready to take tablets you may instead use the nail paint. Though it is not as efficient as the tablets, since the paint may not reach deeper parts of the skin through the nail, it has no side effects. Similar to tablets, it is necessary to continue the treatment for a number of months for complete cure.
An antifungal treatment is capable of treating up to 80% of the fungal infection within 6-18 months. However, the nail’s appearance may not be exactly the same as it was in the past (before infection).
Growth of the new nail will be visible if the treatment is working. The treatment needs to be continued until recommended in order to prevent the infection from returning.
Softening & scraping off the nail
Since the treatments take month to cure, a faster method that people use is the softening of the nail and scraping it off. Pharmacies have treatment kits which contain a device for scraping, urea paste and plasters. The paste aids in softening the infected nail so that it can be easily scraped off and a healthy nail would gradually grow in its place.
How to do this treatment:
- The infected nail needs to be washed and dried thoroughly
- Apply the urea paste on the infected nail and cover it with a plaster
- Let this remain like this for up to 24 hours
- The next day, wash off the paste and scrape the softened areas
- Repeat this for 2-3 weeks
- Once this is done, buy an antifungal nail polish and use it on the growing nail to prevent reoccurrence of the infection.
Removal of the nail
Nail removal is done only for extreme or severe cases. Nails can be removed completely through surgical methods. However, re-growth of the nail could take more than a year.
When no other treatment method seems to work for you, a laser treatment could be done. High energy of light is used on the nail to destroy nail fungus. This treatment will have to be done several times a year and is thus, quite expensive.