Home remedies for toenail fungus, or onychomycosis, abound, but unfortunately none of them actually work. To really treat nail fungus, you have to take a trip to your doctor. Toenail fungus -- characterized by discolored, thick and brittle nails -- is a common condition caused by an infection in the nail bed.
The most effective treatments for toenail fungus are oral antifungal medications like itraconazole (Sporanox) and terbinafine (Lamisil), which are available by prescription and taken daily for three months. These medications work by killing the fungus at the nail root.
People who have liver problems or congestive heart failure shouldn't take oral antifungal medications. In this case, your doctor may recommend ciclopirox (Penlac), a prescription anti-fungal topical lacquer that you use like nail polish. It's sometimes used for people whose toenail fungus is caught early and hasn't spread to the entire nail. However, topical therapy isn't as effective as oral medication and probably won't get rid of toenail fungus for good.
After the oral drug regimen, the toenail cuticle should look clear, but it could take up to a year for the entire nail to be fungus free. Unfortunately, some people are never cured of toenail fungus. If this is the case, you may have to just manage the fungal nail. Regular visits to the podiatrist to cut and file down the nail will prevent it from irritating your foot. You may also consider having the nail removed.
Typically, toenail fungus is more of a nuisance than a health problem. But this doesn't mean you can ignore it: Left untreated, toenail fungus can spread to your fingernails and skin. And if you have diabetes or a circulatory disorder, you need to be more vigilant in treating the fungus -- a thick, long toenail could cut your foot, which can lead to an ulcer or skin infection.