Why Can't I Get Rid Of My Fungal Nail Infection?

Feeling like you’ve tried everything to shake that yellowing, flaky, discoloured fungal nail infection with no luck? You’re absolutely not alone -  fungal nail infections affect between 10% and 23% worldwide,1which skyrockets up to 50% in those aged over 70 years. 2And for a large number of patients we see with fungal nails, many have already tried treating them, unsuccessfully, and have now come to us for professional help and advice.

So is there a “secret” or key to finally getting rid of that fungal nail infection and restoring your nails to their former healthy and clear glory? Truthfully, the answer is both yes and no. Getting rid of a fungal nail infection successfully relies on a great deal of consistency, realistic expectations in terms of a timeline, having the right products and the right guidance from a podiatrist, and importantly, taking some key steps to prevent reinfection along the way. Here’s our podiatrists’ inside guide to how we successfully help our patients treat fungal nail infections - and how you can treat yours, too.

Fungal Nail Infections Are A “Living” Problem, So Reinfections Are A #1 Downfall

When looking to successfully treat a fungal nail infection, it’s important to know the basics - including that fungus is very much a living, growing and spreading type of infection. Specifically, fungal nail infections are spread through tiny spores that are invisible to the eye - but can quickly take hold on a vulnerable toenail.

What does this mean? If you’ve been living with a fungal nail infection, it’s almost certain that you have fungal spores contained within your shoes, socks, bedsheets, the surface of your shower - we can go on. Which is why many people struggle to beat their fungal nail infection - sure, they can address the fungus present on the toenails, but not all the other spores that can be quick to re-infect. This is where part of your treatment must be to sanitise a range of surfaces - hot washing your sheets and socks, using an anti-fungal spray in your shoes, cleaning the shower surfaces - to help eliminate the spores and reduce your risk of reinfection.

At your appointment with us, we’ll go through all the areas where fungal spores tend to be lingering - and how to clean them effectively.

Consistency Is Key When Applying Anti-fungal Products

The next key point is both about consistency, and about realistic expectations when it comes to treating your fungal nail infection. Fungal nail infections can be stubborn, to say the least, and with many spores potentially living in your home environment, this is exactly why you need to be vigilant in applying your anti-fungal products as per their instructions - which is typically daily, if not several times per day. This allows the anti-fungal agents to get to work on the fungus, as well as any new spores that may come in contact with your toenails. 

When it comes to realistic expectations, you also need to know that anti-fungal treatments do not reverse the damage caused by nail fungus. They do stop the fungus in its tracks - preventing the nail damage from getting worse, as well as helping prevent it from spreading to your other toenails, and importantly to other members of your family. Our goal with anti-fungal care is to get rid of the living fungus on your nails (and from your environment), so that your nails can then grow out healthy and clear. This does take time - and explains why you do need to continue to use your antifungal products for a prolonged period, and not just a week or two. Completely treating and eliminating nail fungus is very possible and something we help our patients with on a daily basis - but it is a “long game” with any treatment - there is no treatment available to reverse the damage inflicted on your existing toenails.

You Can Improve Treatment Success Rates By Having A Nail Care Appointment First

The next thing we recommend, where possible, is to have a nail care appointment with your podiatrist. Your podiatrist can use medical-grade, sterilised tools to safely trim back as much of the affected nail as possible, and then use a specialised burr (like a fine drill) over the top of the nail, reduce any excess nail thickness, remove any flaking and brittle areas of the nail surface, and generally improve the penetration potential of your anti-fungal products. They’ll also use a blacks file to clear any excess skin and fungus trapped down the sides and beneath the nail, maximising your chance of treatment success.

Merivale Podiatry Fungal Nail Infection PicYour Podiatrist Is Your Best Source Of Anti-fungal Care Advice

Your podiatrist will also be able to offer insights to not only support you throughout the treatment process, but also help reduce your risk of picking up a new fungal nail infection for the years to come. Start by:

  • Avoiding nail salons that don’t sterilise the instruments they use on your feet. A New Zealand survey found that just 12% of nail salon operators had adequate disinfection and sterilisation processes. The reason behind this is simple: it’s expensive and time-consuming to have good hygiene protocols. Here at Merivale Podiatry, every single instrument that is used on you has been thoroughly cleaned, bagged, then steam sterilised to over 200 degrees for over an hour. The machines that do this are expensive to buy, must be maintained a couple of times a year, and you can bet it’s a hefty power bill too. But that doesn’t matter - because your health comes first. Unfortunately, these factors mean that in many nail salons, instruments are simply placed into a cup of water between clients.
  • Dry your feet thoroughly after you shower or bath: fungus thrives in warm and moist environments, so having dry toes will support your efforts in clearing the infection.
  • Keep your showers and floors clean, especially when first starting anti-fungal treatment.
  • Wear jandals in communal showers (like at the gym) or swimming facilities. This reduces your risk of picking up fungal infections in general, including Athlete’s foot.
  • Keep your shoes dry by airing them regularly and alternating the pairs of shoes that you wear. This helps prevent exposing your toes to moist environments from the same pair of shoes day after day, which supports the growth of fungus.
  • Avoid sharing shoes, socks and nail clippers when there is a fungal nail infection in your family.
  • Change your socks regularly if you have sweaty feet.
  • Wear well-fitting shoes to minimise trauma to the nail. Damaged nails are more likely to be vulnerable to a fungal nail infection taking hold.
  • Fungus dies in temperatures over 60 degrees - so wash your socks, bed sheets, stockings and any other items of clothing regularly in contact with your feet in temperatures at 60 degrees or over, especially at the start of your treatment process. We highly recommend using an antifungal agent in your washing load

Best Anti-fungal Products For Fungal Nail Infections

We’re proud to only stock the best range of anti-fungal products at our clinic that we’d use on ourselves and our loved ones. These include:

  • Spirularin Fungal Nail Serum - Spirularin offers an advanced formula that is clinically proven to be a naturally active antifungal and anti-bacterial. It contains nail-nourishing ingredients, and is also available in a cost-effective nail regeneration starter pack that contains two bottles, plus a complimentary Spirularin skin gel.
  • Resolve antifungal solution - Resolve uses a 2% miconazole formulation, which is broad spectrum antifungal. It can be used directly on the nail as well as on the skin surrounding the nails, particularly down the sides and beneath the nail where fungus can linger.
  • Resolve skin cream - many people contract a fungal skin infection around the same time as a fungal nail infection, or from a similar source. This is Resolve’s silicon based cream that can be used over your feet and between the toes to help eliminate Athlete’s foot fungal infections.
  • Canesten Antifungal Laundry Rinse - Canesten laundry rinse is shown to eliminate bacteria, fungus and 99.9% of germs. It is a fantastic and highly recommended adjunct to your fungal treatment efforts, targeting the invisible spores lingering in your clothing, towelling and sheets.

 These products are available for purchase from us both online, and in our clinic.

1 https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4047123/