The Care and Banishment of Yellow Toenails

Go ahead, take a look. No one’s watching. You can take a peek. You won’t like it, understand, but sooner or later you have to.

See, I told you that you wouldn’t like it. Denial is not yet perfect as a yellow toenail treatment. Those toenails are still, well, yellow, aren’t they? They’re just not going to go away by themselves, and people are beginning to talk about your wearing socks at the beach.

If your toenails are yellow, thickened or cracked, flaky and brittle at the ends, even possibly a bit foul smelling, it’s probably onychomycosis, one of the varieties of fungus made up of tiny organisms that grow and feed in dark, mildly damp conditions like shoe-clad feet. The good news is that it’s a slow-growing problem, meaning you may have months to notice and treat the fungus before it spreads to other nails. The bad news is that left untreated it assuredly will spread to other nails, and the traditional medical treatments and the home remedies alike tend to be problematic, though for different reasons.

What are other people doing about their yellow toenails? (Yes, other people’s toes get onychomycosis too, and they don’t want to look at it either.) If your yellow toenail treatment plan is early and persistent, your variety of toenail fungus can be cured or at least prevented from spreading to other toes. Curing that problem comes with a cost, though, in terms of side effects. Both Lamisil and Sporanox, the prescription medications most frequently used, are usually taken for two to three months and may not be recommended for patients with heart or liver problems. Topical treatments usually include antifungal nail polish or creams and may require a year to show progress.

The nonprescription “home remedy” approaches to yellow toenail treatment tend to be more anecdotal than rigorously proven in their success rate and often are as demonstrably effective as the “don’t look, don’t tell” method mentioned above. Discussion boards frequented by the legion of yellow toenail sufferers include recommendations of a daily coating of Vick’s VapoRub, soaking for twenty minutes in one part vinegar and two parts water, or hydrogen peroxide, or multiple soakings every day in Epsom salts. Others claim to have achieved results from soaking the nails in an apple cider vinegar solution or from direct application of the apple cider vinegar to the nail bed. A number of reports from users claim success with applications of Australian tea tree oil, but the Mayo Clinic comment on this claim is that not enough evidence has been gathered to make a recommendation.

Since the fungus that causes yellow toenails will assuredly continue to grow and spread to other toes without treatment, the “don’t look” approach is not a long-term choice. Even if the prescription drug approach (which does show scientific evidence of success) is not your choice, it would be well to discuss any yellow toenail treatment plan, prescription or nontraditional, with your doctor first.