What is Toenail Fungus?
Onychomycosis, or toenail fungus, is a nail infection caused by dermatophyte fungi. It is the same type of fungi that causes ringworm and athlete’s feet.
The fungi require keratin, a fibrous protein, for survival and growth. Since keratin is found in abundant supply in the nail, fungal infections will not go away on their own. They will continue to damage new nail tissue as it grows until you treat the problem.
Toenail Fungus Symptoms
Some of the most common symptoms of toenail fungus include:
- Yellow, gray, or brown discoloration of the nail itself. It may start as a single white spot before spreading.
- Thickening of the toenail, with the edges often becoming brittle and ragged.
- Toenail warping out of its normal shape.
- There might even be a mildly unpleasant smell.
Some or all of these symptoms might be present in your toenails. It should be noted that treating toenail fungus and getting your toenails back to normal in appearance takes time. This means that the earlier you come in for evaluation and treatment, the quicker and easier it is to fix the problem.
How Do I Get Rid of Toenail Fungus?
There are, broadly speaking, three potential treatment methods we can offer you: oral medications, topical medications, and laser treatments. Learn more about each of these treatments and see which one you would like.
Oral antifungals have been the “standard” treatment for fungal toenails for many decades, and can still achieve good results for most patients. You will have to take a pill daily for a full treatment course, which typically lasts from 6 to 12 weeks.
The main downside to oral antifungals is that they can have uncomfortable side effects for a small minority of patients. These include skin rashes, taste disturbances, and, in the most severe cases, liver damage.
We will want to have a full medical history and a list of medications you may be taking to determine whether these pills are safe for you. We may also schedule a follow-up appointment in the middle of the treatment course to verify that you are tolerating the medication well.
Topical medications may be used in cases where oral medications are not recommended. You will need to apply the medication to your toenail each day, as well as periodically thin your nails (usually once per week).
This treatment approach can be effective and is safer than oral medications. However, the downside is that it requires a lot of time and discipline, and has the lowest overall success rate. You may have to use the medication every day for a year or longer to achieve the desired results.
Laser therapy is the safest, most effective, and most convenient treatment option, and what we typically recommend for most patients.
The laser we use emits a beam of light energy at a very specific wavelength and power. It passes safely through the nail and kills the fungus underneath, without causing any collateral damage to healthy surrounding tissues.
Laser therapy is painless and does not require any anesthetic or special medications. There are no known side effects.
Sessions often take less than half an hour, and most people achieve the desired results after just three total treatment sessions.
As with all treatments for fungal toenails, however, you will still need to wait several months to achieve optimal results, since the damaged nail must slowly grow out and be replaced with new, healthy nail tissue.