Nail fungus infections are extremely common. Research indicates that the incidence rate in the US is between 8 and 10% and that this rate increases significantly as we age. The medical community has categorized nail fungus infections into four distinct types, but all result in nail discolorations, brittleness and thickening of the nail and, if left to progress, will result in the complete loss of the nail. The differences concern where the fungus has invaded the nail (such as from the tip or the cuticle) and whether the fungus is located underneath the nail or in a more superficial position.
Given the high incidence rate of the disease, there has been a great deal of experimentation with different types of treatment. Oral prescription drugs are available but unfortunately these have been linked to a number of negative side effects. As a last resort some sufferers opt for surgical removal of the infected nail(s) but this does not always ensure that future nail growth will be free of fungus. As a result, the majority of sufferers choose to treat the infection using topical antifungal treatments that are applied externally to infected nails.
All topical approaches to treating nail fungus require long treatment times and the ability to stick to a consistent treatment routine. Sufferers who expect to see visible signs of improvement after just a few applications are likely to be disappointed. Not only is the fungus often located deeply embedded within the nail but nails are very slow growing. Toenails grow at an average of 1mm per month, so it can take 12-18 months for a healthy nail to grow out completely.
The four most popular topical treatments are outlined below. Remember however to always seek the advice of a qualified medical professional before deciding on a particular treatment approach.
1) Tineacide cream – This product contains Undecylenic acid, a well known antifungal drug, in an emollient base that is designed to help the medication penetrate into the nail. A twice daily application routine – once in the morning and then again at night – is recommended.
2) Loceryl – The key advantage that Loceryl has over other topical treatments is that only a weekly application is required. It is however more expensive and is not promoted heavily in the US. The active ingredient used in Loceryl is Amorolfine and a prescription may be needed depending on where you purchase the product.
3) Fungicure Liquid – Like Tineacide, the active ingredient in Fungicure is Undecylenic acid. The manufacturers indicate that the product is also effective against ringworm and athlete’s foot.
4) Zetaclear – This is a top selling brand that combines powerful antifungal agents with essential oils such as Tea Tree Oil and Lavender oil. These oils have antimicrobial properties and help with the penetration of the treatment into the nail.
When treating nail fungus infections topically, consider keeping track of your progress by taking a series of monthly photographs. This should help you to keep motivated. If you have any thickened areas of the nail, scrape these away with a coarse nail grinder prior to each application. Your goal is to ensure that the antifungal treatment is able to come into direct contact with the fungus. It is only by direct contact that the fungus will be destroyed.