White toenail fungus got its name due to the chalky, powdery specs that are found on the surface of the nail. It won’t go away on its own, and it might spread to other nails. Washing your feet and cutting your thickened toenails regularly is highly recommended, but it won’t cure the problem.
With white superficial onychomycosis, the fungal spores enter the layers of your nail’s plate. These are referred to as “white islands.” It’s believed to account for up to 10% of all cases of fungus. The condition is ‘usually’ caused by a fungus, but there are certain exceptions.
We’ll look at the symptoms so that you can make an informed self-diagnosis. Note that there may be other reasons why your toenail has turned white, such as trauma to the nail, the use of polishes, underlying health issues, and dietary deficiencies.
If it is a fungal infection, we’ll advise on how to get rid of toenail fungus permanently. We’ll also recommend ways to prevent white toenail fungus from returning in the future.
Table of Contents:
- 1 White Toenail Fungus Signs and Symptoms
- 2 Why Are My Toenails Turning White?
- 3 White Stuff Under Toenail Causes
- 4 How to Get Rid of White Toenail Fungus
- 5 White Superficial Onychomycosis Can Return
White Toenail Fungus Signs and Symptoms
When you see white discoloration of the toenail, this is the first sign that you might have white superficial onychomycosis. You can confirm your suspicions if your nails have become thick, painful, split from the nail bed, and emit an unpleasant odor. The pain might mean that you can no longer wear closed shoes that would crowd the toes and apply unwanted pressure.
Dermatophytes are the same fungi that cause athlete’s foot. They are responsible for your fungal nail infection. Dermatophytes multiply when provided with a damp, dark, and warm environment. The space between your toes inside your closed shoes is an ideal breeding space for fungal spores.
The condition can cause your toenails to have a whitish, crusty or chalky appearance. The longer that you delay treatment, the thicker the nail(s) or big toenail will grow and the more difficult it will be to cure the condition. If you wait too long, it may be necessary to remove the entire nail (avulsion).
Your nails will be weakened, so you’re more vulnerable to a secondary bacterial infection. If the condition reaches that stage, it will be far more troublesome. It’s associated with gangrene for people who have diabetes.
Medical Diagnosis of White Toenail Fungus
You can consult with your doctor or podiatrist if you require medical confirmation that you have a fungal infection.
An accurate diagnosis requires that the following is done:
- A doctor will clip off a piece of your chalky white toenail and send it away to a lab for testing.
- Medical professionals will put the clipped nail into a container to see if the fungus starts to grow. They can identify the type of nail fungi once they examine the spores under a microscope.
This completely removes all of the guesswork if you’re unsure if you have a different condition. Aside from fungi, there are other nail disorders that you need to understand.
Why Are My Toenails Turning White?
Here are some of the ‘other’ causes of white marks on toenails (that aren’t a fungus):
1) Injury or Trauma
If you’ve stubbed your toe and it chips (or grazes) your nail, you might find that your big toenail has turned white. If you’ve banged your nail somehow, you will likely experience pain when you walk in your shoes and/or notice scratch marks on the surface.
If you bang your big toe a lot, you should take steps to protect your nail(s) from injury. Wear footwear that provides superior protection. If you work in manufacturing or construction, you could switch to steel toe capped boots.
Avoid Tight Shoes
Don’t wear shoes that are tight (or loose). Aside from the circulation issues that it’ll cause, tight shoes can cause trauma to the toenails. It may not be as immediately apparent as dropping an object on your foot, but the constant banging of the toes against the end of the shoe lead to lead to injury. Use a FootFitter two-way shoe stretcher to create extra room in footwear that’s creating a problem.
Cut Nails Correctly
The way you cut your toenails, including pushing back the cuticles, can be harmful. While the cuticles may seem insignificant, they are one of the ways that the good health of your nails is maintained. For best results, you should always cut your nails straight across. Never cut or dig into the sides as it can lead to other painful problems, such as ingrown toenails.
A nail injury is a potential entry point for a fungus, so you may subsequently notice white stuff under the toenail. It’s a situation that needs to be monitored closely as stubbing or banging your toe increases the likelihood of a fungus getting into the nail bed. Also, never share your clippers or scissors with family members as you’ll risk spreading the fungal spores.
2) Toenail Polishes
You can get white toenails from polish. This is caused by the continued application of over-the-counter nail polishes over many weeks/months. Nail polish removers and hardeners lead to a problem. They weaken the toenail’s structure.
The substances in polish are toxic. Medical compounds such as tolune, acetone, and formaldehyde (ingredients that are commonly utilized) can cause the nails to dry up quickly.
The nails can become dehydrated, which could be due to an allergic reaction to the potent chemicals in the polish. Only use polishes that are free of these chemicals. There are antifungal polishes available. They’re thicker by design to remove any unevenness in the toenail.
White toenails are a common side effect of the continued use of polish. You need to give your nails sufficient time to breathe and recover. Polishes should never be worn 24/7. Wearing a non-medicated polish to cover up a fungus is not recommended.
3) Vitamin Deficiency
You may notice white marks on the toenails if you don’t give your body enough vitamins and minerals. If this is the case, your hair and skin may also be affected. The best way to resolve skin and nail problems is with the appropriate dietary modifications.
- Increase your intake of vitamin B7 (biotin), vitamin B12 (Cyanocobalamin), L-lysine, vitamin C (ascorbic acid), iron, copper, selenium, zinc, and calcium. You can either adjust your diet or take a quality supplement each day if you dislike certain types of foods.
4) Failure of Vital Organs
If you have a disease that affects the liver, kidneys, heart, etc. the color of your nails may be your body’s way of alerting you that there’s a severe problem. You’ll likely also notice that the tips of the nails have become reddened or darkened.
Medical conditions, such as cirrhosis, diabetes, liver failure, and hyperthyroidism, can lead to a condition known as Terry’s nails. This occurs because the supply of blood to the nails has been reduced. The only way to fix white toenails when this applies is by resolving the underlying health condition. There is no quick or easy cure due to the nature of the problem.
White Stuff Under Toenail Causes
Most cases of toenail fungus are due to an infection triggered by Trichophyton mentagrophytes. This is the specific spore that causes fungus. As you’ll quickly discover, it’ll develop further if the nails are exposed continually to moist and humid environments.
So, why are my toenails white? Here are some of the main reasons:
1) Moist and Sweaty Feet
Wearing shoes that cause your feet to sweat excessively. Use a shoe deodorizer to kill fungal spores in your old shoes and wear antifungal socks. You should get more than one pair of shoes and switch them up each day.
2) Shoeless in Public
Walking barefoot in public areas, such as gym changing rooms and public swimming pools, can be problematic. Instead, wear a pair of flip-flops or sandals. This will also protect others if you’ve got a fungal infection of the toenails.
3) Toenail Polish Discoloration
Wearing several layers of nail polish (or never giving the nails time to breathe when you’re at home). When the toenail doesn’t get sufficient ventilation, this encourages the fungus to grow.
Consider using Dr.’s Remedy Enriched Nail Polish. It’s not as effective as using a treatment, but it has ingredients that help to fight against fungus. It’s a good option for nail polish wearers.
4) Circulation Problems
People with poor circulation are more at risk, hence why the incidence of infection rises with age. You may be able to improve your blood flow with a Revitive foot circulation booster machine. Losing weight and exercising regularly will also be highly beneficial.
Athlete’s Foot (Tinea Pedis)
If you have ringworm of the feet, as it is also known, this can cause the fungus to spread to your toenails. Take action to get rid of athlete’s foot if you’re particularly prone to fungal nail infections.
How to Get Rid of White Toenail Fungus
Before modern drugs were introduced, nail fungus was hard to treat. The difficulty arises because the fingernails and toenails receive little blood compared to other parts of the body. Older medications failed to reach the bloodstream, rendering them ineffective.
Prescriptions & Topical Creams
Doctors may prescribe an oral toenail fungus medication and combine it with topical creams or ointments. This combination often proves to be effective when followed through for a minimum of 3 to 6 months.
The most effective topical creams will reach the nail bed, where the fungus lies, and kill it entirely. But, it can be difficult to penetrate the nail bed, which now acts as a protective barrier for the fungus.
Unfortunately, prescription meds can have some adverse side effects, one of which is liver damage. They should be avoided if you have other health concerns, such as a severe heart condition. You need to focus on the health problems that cause the most concern.
Ask your doctor for more information on how prescription drugs can affect your health before you get started. Make sure that your doctor is fully aware of your health and medical history to ensure that there is no oversight.
Treat the Toenail with a Laser
Laser treatment for toenail fungus is safer than taking medication. It involves passing a laser over the toenail and killing any fungus that’s hidden away underneath. You may notice a warm sensation, but it doesn’t hurt. It’s worked well for people who’ve had the condition for years.
Treatment with a laser isn’t covered by medical insurance, so the price is a vital consideration. Surprisingly, most insurers consider fungal infections to be a cosmetic and not a medical concern. Of course, you should verify that this is the case with your insurance company.
Has the condition become more advanced or does it keep coming back? That might be a good reason to proceed. If you’re concerned about the cost, you could use the Cure Ex laser device. It’s not cheap, but it’s far affordable than getting the condition treated by a podiatrist.
White Superficial Onychomycosis Can Return
Medications work, but they don’t guarantee that the infection won’t return. If you continue doing the same things that led to the problem, you’re likely to become infected again in the future. You need to modify your behavior to maximize the chances of keeping your toenails safe.
If you want to get rid of the infection, use a tea tree product, such as the Purely Northwest Toenail Fungus System. It has proven antifungal properties that will minimize your recovery time.
The sooner that you treat the condition, the easier it will be to eliminate. Don’t ignore the problem until it causes pain or the appearance of your nail(s). The early treatment of a toenail fungus could remove the condition in weeks.