Everyone looks forward to summer when they can finally put away their winter clothes and slip into their flip flops and lightweight shirts. However, if you have thick yellow toenails, the thought of walking around in flip flops might seem a little daunting.
Yellow toenails that are thick and slowly turn brown is quite common and affects up to 14% of the population in the US and up to 20% in Europe and Asia. But most people don’t proactively seek a cure for this condition until it becomes so extreme it can be quite painful to wear shoes and walk.
Worse than it, the large majority isn’t aware that thick yellow toenails can impact their overall health in a scary manner!
Let’s take a look at the symptoms, causes and health implications of yellow toenails to decide if you need to worry. Then we will review the different treatment options available with a recommendation for the ones that can lead to a definite cure safely and efficiently.
Read on to gain expertise on those thick yellow toenails and how to treat them.
Thick Yellow Toenail Symptoms
Thick yellow nails are caused by a fungus that gets under, around, or on top of the nail. Like any other fungus or bacteria, it takes time to grow, so one might not notice a problem until the growth is well under way.
Some earlier signs of fungus growth might be a slight scaling beneath the nail which has been named subungual hyperkeratosis, after which white or yellowish streaks appear on top of the nail which are called lateral onychomycosis; if infection is starting at the corners or edges of the nail, then you might experience a crumbling and it is called distal onychomycosis which is the most common type of nail fungus.
These will eventually grow into something more sinister and will possibly result in the loss of the infected nail. As the fungus grows over time the infected nail will become more visually unappealing.
Thickening of the nail and yellow discoloration which will turn brown if left untreated is just the start of the growth cycle. Eventually the sufferer may experience a moist sticky substance around and under the nail which is often referred to as toe jam. Sounds pretty grim, but it can get worse, leading to foul smells akin to rotting meat.
What is the Cause of Thick Yellow Toenails?
There is no single cause of this condition, but a multitude of lifestyles or activities that can lead to the development of a fungal growth on the toenails.
Our feet are exposed to contamination whenever we get them out in public. Using public swimming pools, gym showers, having a pedicure or stubbing your toe are all common activities that can lead to a nail infection.
It only takes a few seconds of contact to get under the nail or through a cracked nail or stubbed toe. By the time symptoms become visible it is unlikely you will remember when this could have happened.
Some people are more susceptible to thick yellow nails than others. As we get older, our circulation slows down as we generally become less active; a reduced blood supply leads to thicker nails and generally becomes noticeable in people over 50.
People with medical conditions that might affect blood flow are also susceptible to thick toenails. Conditions such as diabetes or a weakened immune system can be particularly vulnerable.
Having that said, healthy athletes wearing closed shoes that create sweaty feet for long periods can also be exposed to the growth of infectious fungus. The same fungus that causes jock itch and athletes’ foot can also be the cause of a toenail fungal growth. The warm moist atmosphere in shoes is the perfect place for the growth of fungus to be exacerbated.
Another cause to pay attention to is for people who wear false nails and have regular manicure treatments. They should ask the nail specialist how often his equipment is sterilized and avoid sharing nail files or toe clippers
Health Implications of Thick Yellow Toenails
The majority of the time, people will just wear shoes and leave the infection untreated. This might be okay for a while and not have any effects on your health in the short term if you are healthy and young.
But people with a weaker immune system (possibly from drugs to treat other diseases), are more susceptible to yellow toenails. Studies have shown that about one in 24 cases have seen the infection move to other parts of the body. It is normally limited to the feet but has been reported to spread to the back, hands and legs, especially in older patients even if they are not on any medication.
Nail fungus itself can cause cracks in the skin and nail which are an invitation for other types of bacteria to route their way into the body. This can be a serious problem for people suffering from more concerning health problems such as diabetes, diabetic neuropathy (nerve damage caused by diabetes) and more. It has even been blamed for amputations in diabetic patients.
Now this is starting to sound a little more troublesome than just being unsightly!
These are quite extreme examples but you can never be too careful. If you are ever in doubt about your overall health and fungal infections you should definitely consult your doctor.
The good news is that thick yellow toenails can be treated in a number of ways, some more effective than others which we will go through ahead.
The process of getting rid of thick yellow toenail fungus
1. Inspect your toenails to see if you can spot any of the symptoms mentioned in earlier.
2. If you spot any irregularity the first measure should to keep your feet dry and away from hot moist conditions as much as possible.
3. Try to cure toenail fungus with natural remedies free of side effects, preferably over-the-counter topical solutions that blend natural ingredients in therapeutic dosage for maximum strength and are more prone to lead to a definite cure. In most cases an efficient OTC treatment is all you need to get rid of yellow nail fungus.
4. If the fungus does not regress, consider the laser option (expensive treatment) or consult your doctor for a prescription drug (be aware of possible side effects).
5. Continue your treatment until the infection has completely disappeared.
Treatments Available For Thick Yellow Toenails
Once you have realized there is a problem with your toenails the first step is to take away the environment that fungus likes to thrive. As previously mentioned, moist, warm, enclosed areas are perfect for the growth of fungus. Keep your feet as dry as possible and out in the open as often as possible.
Most importantly, apply a treatment that can cure this condition once and for all. So, let’s now have a look at popular treatment options that you can try to treat the condition yourself.
Home Remedies Might Improve Your Condition But Rarely Solve The Problem
The first thing to start doing is grooming your toenails regularly. Keeping the nail short and well-manicured will limit the risk of fungus growing under the nail. If you find it difficult to groom the nails then you could apply creams to soften the nail first. Suggestions to soften the nails are applying urea cream before you go to bed and wearing a tube sock or bandage until the cream has soaked into the nails.
Snakeroot (Aristolochia Serpentaria) has become a popular home-based treatment because of its botanic origin and none pharmaceutical makeup. It goes by a number of names such as snakeweed, sangree root and pelican flower. It was reported by some patients affected by thick yellow toenails to decrease the symptom when it is smeared on the infected toe in extract form over a period of months. It should be noted that this plant has toxic qualities so make sure to avoid taking it orally at all costs.
Another popular home remedy for treating toenail fungus is the application of Vicks Vaporub, not for colds this time. The camphor, eucalyptus, cedar leaf, nutmeg, turpentine, petrolatum, menthol oils and thymol have antifungal qualities that can halt and even regress the growth of fungus. Make sure you start with a clean dry nail and apply the Vicks Vaporub on, around and even under the nail and liberally as possible. Try and repeat this process daily as long as needed (3 to 12 months) until the symptoms have cleared up. Unfortunately, over the course of months this treatment becomes costly and rarely leads to permanent results.
Whilst we are on the subject of natural treatment, let’s also take a look at Tea Tree Oil. This oil has been used for many years in the treatment of many fungal infections such as acne, athletes foot and toenail fungi. It has also proven to be effective against ringworm, scabies and lice. Although Tea Tree Oil can be effective in the fight against thick yellow toenails, it can take 6 months or more to see any results. It can also cause allergic reactions on skin for some people. In case you decide to try it, it’s preferable to use 100% Tee Tree Oil, as any diluted product has not shown any results in past tests. Apply oil to the infected area twice daily for at least 6 months (or more) to see results.
Effective Over-The-Counter Treatments
If none of the above home remedies has the desired effect or if you prefer a better tested way to cure toenail fungus symptoms and cause, you should consider an over-the-counter solution.
The best options to choose from are EmoniNail, Funginix, and Zetaclear. All of these treatments are effective in getting rid of thick yellow toenails caused by fungus.
EmoniNail actually contains anti-fungal agents such as Undecylenic acid (FDA recognized to fight fungus), tea tree oil and other ingredients blended in therapeutic dosage to kill the fungus from your thick toenails without skin irritation. EmoniNail is simple to use and should be applied to clean well-groomed nails twice daily. There are no known side effects, so it is considered safe to use, and it offers unique personal follow-up through a mobile app to enable best possible results. We consider EmoniNail to be currently the best over-the-counter treatment for toenail fungus on the market. Read more about EmoniNail.
Funginix has been specifically designed to attack nail fungus. Ingredients such as camphor, undecylenic acid, and other anti-fungal agents are at concentrated levels to get right to the root of the fungus. Application is recommended first thing in the morning before putting on socks and last thing at night before going to bed. Care should be taken to work the application into and under the nail and the cuticle.
Zetaclear contains Undecylenic Acid with Clove Oil, Lemongrass Oil, Jojoba Oil, Vitamin E Oil and more. Application of this product is recommended three times a day in the same way as the previous two products. Apply the solution liberally to the affected area, working it into the nail surrounding skin and under the nail where possible.
Last Resort Treatment Options
Once you opt for oral toenail fungus medication, and stray from over-the-counter treatments, there always seems to be concerning side effects. However, in some circumstances, if you have tried everything with no result, there might not be a choice other than to seek a cure from your doctor.
The type of treatment that you will be offered for your thick toenails will be anti-fungal tablets that you will have to take for a period of 6 to 12 months. These prescriptions include drugs such as Lamisil (terbinafine), Diflucan (fluconazole), or Sporanox (itroconazole). All of them come with side effects that range from migraines, nausea and diarrhea to heart failure and liver damage. The FDA reported that in some extreme cases the damages caused by Lamisil led to death of patients!
Another treatment offered might be in the form of laser treatment that targets the fungus and slowly burns away the infection over a number of sessions. This might sound as a quick and easy way of solving the problem but it is very costly (thousands of dollars not covered by health insurance), not always efficient, and painful as reported by patients that tried this option.
In that context, it becomes easy to understand why most people affected by yellow toenails prefer to avoid oral drugs and laser treatment, and look at over-the-counter treatments as a safe, cheap, and effective method to get rid of yellow toenail fungus.
Do’s and Don’ts to Fight Thick Yellow Toenails
- Keep your feet clean and dry
- Wear a clean pair of socks daily
- Wear socks or shower shoes in public wash areas
- Throw away old shoes that you don’t wear
- Treat any infections as soon as you notice them.
- Share socks, towels, nail files, nail clippers or scissors
- Wear shoes that get hot and sweaty
- Wear other people’s socks or shoes.
Thickening of the nail and yellow discoloration are clear symptoms of toenail fungus. Thick yellow toenails can easily be contracted by anyone in a multitude of circumstances but are more common among people over 50, people with a weak immune system, and athletes sweating heavily in closed shoes.
Yellow toenails aren’t only ugly and smell bad, but can also spread to other nails and to other parts of the body. Cracks in the nail caused by the fungus is an invitation for other bacteria to penetrate the body and are a serious problem for people suffering from other health problems such as diabetes. In some cases, yellow toenail fungus has even been blamed for amputations in diabetic patients.
Treatments available for thick yellow toenails include home remedies that can decrease symptoms but rarely address the root cause of the problem, oral prescription drugs that come with a heavy load of scary side effects, trendy laser treatments that are very expensive and not always efficient, and over-the-counter treatments that offer blends of natural ingredients in therapeutic dosage.
Using over the counter (OTC) topical solutions has proven very successful in treating thick yellow toenails and should be a serious consideration for anyone suffering from them.