Nail Fungus Summary

I’ve written a lot over the years about the nail fungus I have. Here’s a summary of what I’ve learned. For a lot more, you can search my blog.

I hope that even if this doesn’t solve your nail problems, it let’s you know what’s going on. That can be a relief in itself.

Over-the-counter topicals at your local pharmacy for about $20 sometimes clear up nail fungus, maybe 30% of the time. The ingredient in those products is usually undecylenic acid. Lamisil (or the generic terbinafine) topical ($30) or oral ($2000) is one drug that has better than average results. Going to a podiatrist and getting drugs, or getting your nail ripped out, or both ($50-$3000) might work. There are a couple types of nail fungus, the main classes being dermatophytes and candida. Drugs for one type usually don’t affect the other so it’s helpful to keep a list of what you’ve tried. Laser treatments seem to be about 25% effective; many report a clearing in the first year and then a return after 2 years or so.

For me, oral Lamisil cured most of my nails with 6 months of treatment in 2006 (13 years ago). My right big toe nail still grows wrong and hurts every few months. To remedy, I shorten the nail (with some pain) with nail clippers and the pain goes away in a few days. I make sure to spray a lot of Lamisil topical on me and the equipment to hopefully keep the possibility of spreading the infection to a minimum. I don’t actually know if there is still an infection under the nail.

There’s lots of home-brew topicals that seem to work moderately well… probably a 30% chance of curing your toes. They might work for you, or not. In my case, all of the following appeared to “help” but none got rid of my infection: undecylenic acid, Selsun Blue shampoo, tea tree oil, vinegar on a cotton ball, vapo-rub (I haven’t tried), grapeseed extract. The Selsun Blue helped a lot because it’s inexpensive enough to rub on my whole foot to knock out athelete’s foot and possibly the nail infection.

Sadly, modern science doesn’t have a guaranteed cure for nail fungus. Anyone who says otherwise is selling you snake oil.


  1. Lee Sonko says:

    Last year I talked about my nail fungus to to my nurse practitioner, Lauren Blanchard, NP. Here is what she wrote to me. This is nearly identical to what I’ve been saying on my site. It’s good for you to read it. (PS, she is awesome!)

    I recommend you apply tea tree oil on a Band-Aid every night for a month. If you see a clean margin growing out after 1 month, you’re on the right track! Some people try the same idea with Vick’s; some people dab on bleach. The reason there are so many treatments is that none of them really works 100%. If topical treatment doesn’t work, we can consider nail removal, to give your body a chance to try again with a fresh nail. A third option is oral meds. Results of oral meds are not impressive: likely results are that 25 % people receive a cure; 50% receive improvement and 25% get no response. There is also a slight risk for elevated liver tests, so I always do a baseline liver lab and again after a month to make sure no damage is occurring. Finally, the oral medications are extremely expensive. They can cost $1000 to treat nail fungus. Most health insurance companies will likely cover the majority of this cost, but they will likely require proof that you *really* have nail fungus prior to shelling out for such spendy treatment. If you want to pursue oral meds, please bring in your nail trimmings for us to send for pathology confirmation. Or….you could just live with your nails the way they are. :-).

  2. Me says:

    “I recommend you apply tea tree oil on a Band-Aid every night for a month. If you see a clean margin growing out after 1 month, you’re on the right track! Some people try the same idea with Vick’s; some people dab on bleach”

    Have you tried any of these? Have you spoken with anyone that tried these?

  3. Lee says:

    “Me”, thanks for writing!
    When I tried tea tree oil, after a few weeks my cuticles started getting really tender and inflamed. It looked like an allergy. The inflamation went away right after I stopped.

    I tried bleach… for like 1 day. It stinks. It burns. It’s no fun.

    I haven’t tried Vicks but it falls squarely in the “topical that might work” camp along with all the others I’ve tried. Topicals kill whats on the surface but can’t get under the nail. :-(

    I visited my doctor last week for an annual. The nail fungus issue was covered like this, “I’ve still got fungus on one toenail. I don’t suppose there are any new, better-than-before nail fungus treatments out recently?” “Nope, sorry.”

  4. Laser says:

    Have you tried Laser? Has there been a clinical trial of Laser?

  5. Lee says:

    I haven’t tried laser but I hear from all places that it’s about 20-50% effective (like like every other treatment), and expensive at about $2,000.

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