The Center for Podiatric Care and Sports Medicine

Can a Purple Foot Soak Cure Fungal Toenails? Podiatrists Discuss Alternative Toenail Fungus Treatments

Posted by on Friday, January 22nd, 2016


Yellowed toenails don’t always signify toenail fungus. Though they feel strong, nails are actually quite porous, so if you’ve been continuously coating your toenails with polish, they’ll need a break from aggressive pigmentation chemicals and exposure to oxygen to be healthy again. If you begin to notice your nails not only breaking, but crumbling like chalk, then that could be a tell-tale sign that your problem is, in fact, fungus-related. Fungal toenails often present with streaks or spots on the surface of the nail. In addition to being yellow, the nails often thicken as well. If you’re not too squeamish, you can view photos of toenail fungus posted on WebMD to compare.1 Toenail fungus is one of the more minor conditions we are equipped to treat here at The Center for Podiatric Care and Sports Medicine in New York City.

toenail fungus treatments
Polish and fungus can both yellow your nails, but if your toenails are also crumbling and thickened, you likely have a fungus problem. Image Source:

Conventional Toenail Fungus Treatments

Some podiatrists reach right for the notepad and write out a prescription for Lamisil. However, as the SteriShoe Blog points out, there are several drawbacks to conventional oral medication for toenail fungus:

  • It’s expensive. At over $15/pill, Lamisil (terbinafine) can cost patients a small fortune over the course of standard three-month treatment. While insurance companies often pick up a portion of this expense, patients sometimes end up paying up to $500 or more for brand-name oral antifungal medications.2
  • It’s not always effective. Most of the existing studies have been funded by the pharmaceutical companies themselves.3 A 2009 study published in the New England Journal of Medicine found that oral drugs only cured toenail fungus in 26% to 55% of patients after four months.4
  • There are risks and side effects. In addition to headaches, stomach upsets, skin rashes, diarrhea, constipation, bloating, weakness, and itching, oral toenail fungus medication causes liver damage in 1 in 50,000 to 120,000 patients.5 Though it’s relatively rare to have such serious side effects, patients with compromised immune systems or livers are often advised to avoid this course of treatment altogether.

Can a Purple Toenail Soak Cure Fungus?

Natural, home toenail fungus treatments include soaks with everything from vinegar and hydrogen peroxide to Listerine and tea tree oil. A recurrent toenail fungus sufferer recently wrote to the UK Daily Mail wondering if soaking the feet in a purple solution of “potassium permanganate” is a good idea (since it “seems to hold it back”) — or if a three-month course of pills should be tried again.6

Potassium permanganate is an antiseptic solution sometimes used in the treatment of ulcers, eczema, and athlete’s foot.7 It’s a rather messy solution, as it temporarily stains the feet and nails brown. Dr. Martin Scurr replied, “Your strategy of potassium permanganate foot soaks interests me, though this highly caustic chemical can be harmful to tissue at too great a concentration.” Other than anecdotal stories, there is no scientific evidence to support the widespread use of these purple toenail soaks to cure toenail fungus.

Laser Toenail Fungus Removal

Of the alternative toenail fungus treatments available, our perferred method is the PinPointe Footlaser.8 With an easy, painless 30-minute procedure, laser light penetrates the surface of the nail to the bed where the fungal colony originates. Though treatments are 80-90% effective, the newness of the technology and the perception that toenail fungus is merely a “cosmetic” issue has led insurance companies to deny coverage. Our office can help you set up a reasonable payment plan that fits your budget.

The other bit of bad news is that, no matter which treatment you choose, you will need to wait for the diseased nail to grow out before your nail officially looks “cured” and healthy again. We find that the laser therapy does lighten the yellow and cloudiness of the nail slightly, but patience is still necessary to wait for the final results over the next six months. You should notice the new growth looking healthy and clear for evidence that your treatment worked.

Contact The Center for Podiatric Care and Sports Medicine for more information on laser toenail fungus removal in NYC.


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If you have any foot problems or pain, contact The Center for Podiatric Care and Sports MedicineDr. Josef J. GeldwertDr. Katherine Lai, Dr. Ryan Minara and Dr. Mariola Rivera have helped thousands of people get back on their feet. Unfortunately, we cannot give diagnoses or treatment advice online. Please make an appointment to see us if you live in the NY metropolitan area or seek out a podiatrist in your area.