Family Health

What a White Toenail Fungus Means (and how to treat it)

Written by andy

Have a white toenail fungus? The reason may surprise you.

Toenail fungus is, sadly, a fairly common problem. The CDC states that fungal infections of the foot are a lot more common than fingernail infections, which is why up to 18% of the population in the world experiences them at some point in their lives. Don’t worry: the white toenail fungus isn’t a truly serious threat to your health. It’s a simple fungal infection that can be defeated with proper treatment.

White toenail fungus looks exactly like its name suggests: it’s white and grows on your toenail. You may find that it crumbles and flakes, or it turns your toenail thicker than normal. There may be a bit of pain and discomfort on your toes, or even soreness of the skin surrounding the toenail bed. Most fungal infections of the foot tend to give off a pretty nasty odor. Put all these symptoms together, and you’ve got the common toenail infection.

READ MORE: What Your Fingernails are Trying to Tell You

The majority of white toenail fungus is caused by a fungi known as “trichophyton mentagrophytes.” This is a spore that burrows into your toes when they spend a lot of time encased in socks and shoes (a warm, moist environment). They come in contact with your feet if you spend time walking barefoot in public areas, such as at the neighborhood swimming pool, club sauna, or gym showers. If you put your dirty feet back into your shoes, they provide the perfect environment for the fungi to grow. The result is a white toenail fungus infection.

For women, toenail polish can also be a reason you’re dealing with a toe infection. Toenail polish cuts off the ventilation to the toenails (yes, even your nails need to breathe), so the fungus is able to flourish and grow. It burrows deeper into your toenail and infects both the keratin-based nail and the skin (nail bed) beneath. If you have a weak immune system or suffer from poor circulation, your risk of toenail infection increases drastically.

How can you be sure it’s a toe fungal infection and not some other problem? Well, it’s estimated that less than 10% of whitish discoloration of your toenails is caused by other problems. In the vast majority of cases, your toenails only turn white (or yellow) as a result of the toenail fungus.

Of course, you can always take a sample of the infected toenail and get it tested just to be sure. Your doctor will examine the toenail under a microscope to determine if there is a fungal infection. They will usually be able to tell which fungi is causing the problem, making it easier for them to recommend the proper medication to deal with the infection.

The good news is that you probably don’t need medication to deal with the white toenail fungus. There are a number of home remedies that will do the trick to kill off the fungus easily:

  • Tea tree oil – The powerful antiseptic and antifungal properties of tea tree oil will be amazing for dealing with toenail fungus. You can add a few drops of tea tree oil into a warm foot bath, or apply the oil directly to the infected area.
  • Oregano oil ––  Oregano oil is another very potent antifungal remedy that can kill off the fungus that is causing the infection. Applying it directly to the infected area will do wonders to clear up the infection.
  • Bleach soak – Bleach is strong enough to kill off most germs and fungus. Soak your feet in a tub of warm water with some bleach to get rid of the infection.

About the author


Some people get lucky and are born with fit, toned bodies. Andy Peloquin is not one of those people... Fitness has come hard for him, and he's had to work for it. His trials have led him to becoming a martial artist, an NFPT-certified fitness trainer, and a man passionate about exercise, diet and healthy living. He loves to exercise--he does so six days a week--and loves to share his passion for fitness and health with others.

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