bare feet on sandAs summer approaches we start to see many people who want to get rid of their ugly, toenail fungus. While many people are already aware about the importance of eliminating fungal nails and about its treatments, there are still many myths floating around in social circles and the internet that I’d like to put to rest.

5 Myths About Treating Toenail Fungus

1. Home Remedies Will Cure It

I thought I’ve heard everything about the types of home remedies that people use to cure toenail fungus; then the other day someone came into my office who said they heard that you can use duct tape to get rid of it. We had a good laugh about that one. However there are people who still think that Vicks VapoRub, Listerine, bleach, and soaking their toes in Pinesol have merit. Even my colleagues who are naturopaths and use alternative medications such as Teatree oil have admitted that this treatment is limited in its value as an anti-fungal. It might mitigate the fungus but it almost always comes back.

2. Only People Who Don’t Bathe Get Toenail Fungus

Although we’d all like to think that onychomycosis (the technical name for toenail fungus) only affects unclean people, this couldn’t be further from the truth. Anyone can get fungal toenails. One thing to keep in mind is that fungus loves to grow in dark, damp places. One of the reasons we get fungus on our toes and not our fingers is because we have our feet in shoes all day long, a place fungus loves to grow, NOT because we don’t take a bath.

Other factors that increase our chance of getting fungal nails are:

  • wearing tight shoes
  • wear socks made of materials that retain moisture eg. cotton 
  • trauma to the nail bed eg. running in a tight shoe
  • going barefoot in shared showers and locker rooms

3. Toenail Fungus Can Be Cured By Removing the Nail

Occasionally fungal toenails become infected and ingrown and require surgical removal. However, I only use this procedure in more invasive presentations of this disease. Also, removal of the toenail is no guarantee that fungal nails will be cured. Other complications can also result from this procedure including pain and distorted nail regrowth. The best option is to have toenails treated early so that surgery is not needed.

4. It’s Ugly, But It’s OK Not to Treat It

Yes, fungal nails are indeed ugly but that’s not the only reason to treat them. As mentioned above leaving nails untreated can cause nails to become infected and ingrown. Fungal nails can also be quite painful, become very tough to trim, and are contagious. And most fungal nail conditions are progressive in nature. The longer you have it the worse it gets and the more likely you are to have problems. Finally, people with diabetes who have a fungal nail infection are much more likely to develop a diabetic foot ulcer.

5. It Can Be Cured Quickly

There is no quick path to treating fungal nails. Even with good effective treatment such as laser treatment, nails take up to a year to grow out.

Dr. Rion Berg
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A podiatrist in North Seattle treating families for over 40 years.
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