Toenail fungal infection, brittle, thick and / or discolored nails is a type of nail infection that is experienced by a large population of people. Fingernail and toenail fungus is caused by a family of dermatophytes, which are comprised of three types of fungi that are common causes of skin disease and athletes foot. The discoloration, thickening and brittleness is basically caused by the same fungus that causes athlete's foot. The fungal infection is a contagious condition and affects about twelve percent of the human population. The nail infection is a stubborn condition, making many people wonder how they will treat and successfully cure this problem.

The condition manifests itself by one or more of the mold spores that are part of the dermatophytes, candida or nondermatophytic families enter the toenail area either through a cut on the toe or finger or as as a result of the separation of nail and skin allowing for a breeding ground for the mold spore. By the time the nail discoloration appears the infection is already well established. Because the feet are frequently in a moist and warm environment due to the wearing of socks and shoes, the feet sweating and the infrequent exposure of the feet to sunlight. Like all mold spores these ones like the warm moist environment and need that type of climate to take hold and continue abated growth.

Treatments:

In most cases the infection is not life threatening and is more of an embargo and nuisance than anything else. Due this the question to treat or not to treat arises and is a personal decision. There are essentially four approaches to treatment.

The good old standby homeopathic series of treatments which are comprised of ingredients found in food stores to include health food stores. Items such as tree tea oil from Australian evergreen trees, vinegar, bleaches and Listerine.

Some folks take a pharmacological approach by seeking out over the counter topical remedies as well as a doctor's prescription. In this category falls items such as: Lamisil and Sporanox. Some of the over the counter products such as Zeta clear and fungavir, to name a few, are available without prescription.

A newer entrant to the cure of nail fungus is with the use of lasers. A family of lasers that have been used in the past treat cataracts have also been used in toenail fungal infections and a new line specifically designed for this treatment came into use in the 90's.

A treatment of last resort is surgical removal of the affected nails. This is seldom done without there is extenuating health issue such as diabetes. If the infection is bad enough it can add to the complications of diabetes.

Because of the normally cosmetic only effect of toenail and fingernail fungus, most health plans are willing to cover the laser or surgical procedures, circumstantial pending. As a result of this most afflicted turn to the pharmacological and homeopathic remedies and this market has become a billion dollar plus market. The problem with these is the term of treatment and in the home remedy approach the lack of research can neither confirm nor disprove the effectiveness of these various remedies.

The prescriptive approach appears to be more affective, but due to a variety of possible side effects, many individuals opt to not take this approach. There has been sufficient research conducted on these medicines to claim it as a more effective treatment but only in the 40 to 60 percentile range.

The treatment with the highest success rate appears to be the laser treatment. It claims about a 70 to 80 percentile infection free after one year rate. Due to the cost of this treatment though, about $ 1000, it is not viable for many so the problems will persist, the over the counter, prescriptive and homeopathic treatments will continue to flourish with marginal success, while the rest of us continue along our business carrying this hidden embarrassment.