I used to cringe when my yoga instructor told us to “take off your socks.” The big toenail on my right foot was an ugly flakey brownish gray, a condition I’ve had for years. It may have started when I was taking Tae Kwon Do and kept landing on my big toe while trying to do roundhouse kicking.
I don’t know which is more embarrassing, having a discolored toenail or being the only one in yoga class with socks on. I was also unhappy at the beach and the community pool in the summer. Yeah, I could paint my toenails, but I was hoping that if I let that big toe breathe, it would eventually get better.
The toe was not only discolored but sometimes uncomfortable, so I went to a podiatrist who said he thought I had a nail fungus and gave me a liquid topical with a brush (much like nail polish) to apply daily. This I did for months and months without any noticeable change. I returned to the podiatrist and he clipped a piece of the nail to be analyzed, and it was confirmed, I had a fungus. He sent me for blood tests because the next form of treatment would be Sporanox (itraconazole), a prescription antifungal pill that carries serious health warnings and precautions. At first, it seemed as though the Sporanox was going to work and then the fungus returned. I was then given another liquid topical and another antifungal medicine.
On my last visit, the podiatrist told me about a mobile laser service that comes to his office a couple of times a month. They could zap the toes. The cost - $1,200 – we’d do all 10 toes to make sure the fungus hasn’t spread to them. However, it’s experimental and not covered by my health insurance. I checked with my medical flex plan, but I didn’t have enough to cover the cost this year so I needed to wait.
Meanwhile, I asked one of Consumer Reports’ health editors about the experimental treatment. She told me that a small study showed that Vicks VapoRub can clear up the notoriously hard to treat toenail fungus.
I picked up a small jar of a similar product at my local pharmacy and started using it twice a day, upon rising in the morning and before I go to bed at night. I put a little bit on the end of a Q-tip and apply it to the top and side portions of the infected toenail.
It’s been about two months since I started doing this, and my nail looks much better! It’s now only slightly darker than my others toenails and I’m not embarrassed to show it in public. I didn’t have to pay $1200 for further treatment. The cost for the jar of rub was under $5 and was reimbursed by my flex plan. And best of all, it worked.
—Anne Galletta, senior administrative assistant