Nail fungus is a common infection that can lead to deep distress and embarrassment. Once fungus gets under your toenails, it can cause may unsightly symptoms, and is nearly impossible to eradicate on your own.
However, you don’t have to live with the embarrassment. Northwest Extremity Specialists can help you restore a healthy shine to your nails and get you back in open-toed shoes with confidence.
What Are the Symptoms of Nail Fungus?
Often, a small white or yellowish spot near the tip of your toenail is the first noticeable sign of a fungal infection. From there, the fungus—and the resulting damage—can quickly spread. Commonly, nails will appear:
- Discolored (white, yellow, brown, and gray are common)
- Brittle or crumbly
- Ragged or distorted in shaped
There may be a slightly foul odor as well.
Most otherwise healthy people with fungal toenails are not at serious medical risk. However, those with a compromised circulation of immune system function (due to diabetes, for example) may suffer more severe complications as a result of nail fungus. Give us a call as soon as possible if you have diabetes and nail infection.
What Causes Toenail Fungus?
Toenail fungus is caused by dermatophyte fungi—the same micro-organisms responsible for athlete’s foot, ringworm, jock itch, and other skin and hair infections. Dermatophytes get their nutrition from keratin, a protein commonly found in hair, nails, and skin. They are frequently encountered in environments that are warm and damp.
Common methods of transmission include:
- Wearing damp shoes and socks
- Wearing shoes that are too small or are not well ventilated
- Walking barefoot in public areas, especially where the fungus thrives (locker rooms, pools, saunas, etc.)
- Having athlete’s foot
- Having a skin or nail condition that can allow fungi under the nail, such as cracked nails or psoriasis.
People who are older or who have diabetes, circulation problems, or a weakened immune system are more likely to be infected.
How Are Fungal Nails Treated?
Nail fungus will not go away on its own, and home treatments are almost never effective. (The nail presents a significant barrier reducing the effectiveness of topical treatments). However, we do have several treatment options.
- Antifungal medications. Oral medications have historically been the most common choice to treat fungal toenails. The treatment course typically lasts from 6 to 12 weeks. Because oral antifungal pills may cause certain side effects—including liver damage and skin rashes—they may not be recommended for everyone. Periodic blood tests may be required to ensure you aren’t having any adverse reactions to the medication. Topical therapy is also an option that avoids the risks of liver damage but can be less effective.
- Laser treatment. In recent years, laser treatment has emerged as a safe and effective option for treating fungal toenails. The light energy emitted by the laser is deadly to the fungus but is harmless to the surrounding skin and able to pass through the nail without difficulty. A typical treatment course consists of around 3 short monthly appointments, but treatment times vary based on the number of toes affected and the severity of the infection.
- Surgery. In rare cases where the infection is severe, painful, or doesn’t respond to other treatments, we may suggest removing the nail.
When Will I See Results?
Some initial clearing of the nail is possible within a few weeks or months, especially with laser treatment. However, any warping or damage to the nail will remain until it is replaced by healthy nail growth. Complete results, therefore, will take several months to achieve.
Of course, if you never get your fungal toenails treated, you’ll never see results—the condition will only persist and worsen indefinitely. So don’t delay any longer! To get started on the path to clear nails, complete a contact form or call the nearest office of Northwest Extremity Specialists today.