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Toenail fungus, or onychomycosis, is a medical condition in which the toenail is infected with fungal spores or fungal organisms. In Singapore, the condition affects slightly more males than females.

Treatments and drugs

If the fungal infection is confirmed, antifungal treatment can be given in topical form (directly applied to the nails), oral form (taken by mouth) or both.

Oral antifungal medication is usually prescribed by a doctor. As the pills can have toxic effects, caution should be exercised, especially in patients who have liver and kidney problems. Antifungal pills are usually advocated when the fungus affects the nail matrix and is more extensive.

Topical antifungal treatment is another alternative. Amorolfine (Loceryl) is a common non-prescription nail antifungal lacquer. It needs to be applied to the affected nail plate once or twice weekly.

Usage of milder antifungals such as tea tree oil has been shown to help for mild fungal infection of the toenails.

Treatment is usually lengthy. Depending on the severity of the toenail infection, it may take from 3 to 12 months to see a significant improvement. This is primarily due to the slow rate of nail growth.

Prevention of toenail fungus

Prevention is of utmost importance. As noted, the fungus thrives in a warm, dark and moist environment. To prevent fungal infection, you need to remove such conditions by taking the following steps:

  • Change your socks daily.
  • Air your feet after a long day in closed shoes.
  • Clean your feet daily with alcohol wipes.
  • Control excessive feet sweating (hyperhidrosis) by applying aluminium chloride.
  • Rotate your footwear by alternating between at least 2 pairs of shoes.
  • See your podiatrist or dermatologist if you suspect you may have a fungal toenail infection.

The reinfection rate of toenail fungus is high. Discarding old socks and shoes worn during the fungal infection can help reduce the risk of reoccurrence.

The risk of contracting a fungal infection of the toenail is ever present. However, by understanding the nature of this condition, you can take precautionary steps to minimise your risk.

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