Are you embarrassed by your unsightly toenail fungus infection? Afraid to wear those open-toed shoes in public?
You are not alone. Fungal toenail infections are a lot more common than you would think—though that might not be much comfort.
Many people suffer from toenail fungus, and with the available treatment, you could see significant improvement. Fungal toenails may be stubborn, but they absolutely can be treated. Thanks to advanced laser therapy, eradicating the infection is now easier, safer, and more effective than ever. Read on to learn all about this condition, how we can treat it, and even how you can prevent it from coming back.
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 You Get Toenail Fungus?
Fungi can spread through both direct and indirect contact. If your nails are brittle, cracked, or slightly separated from the nail bed, the fungi can get underneath and begin to spread. Toenail fungus requires keratin, a type of fibrous protein, to grow. That is found readily in the nail, which is why treatment of them is different. If the environment is just right, this fungus will grow unchecked.
Although it is not always possible to pinpoint exactly when and how you were infected, risk factors include:
- Sweaty shoes: Damp, dark, sweaty shoes and wet socks create the ideal environment for the fungi to grow. If you do not change your shoes regularly, you are more likely to get an infection.
- Other fungal infections: If you already have a skin infection like athlete’s foot, it can sometimes spread and get underneath the toenail.
- Going barefoot in public: Communal areas like pool decks and shower rooms may harbor fungus on infected surfaces. Make sure to always wear a pair of flip-flops or shower shoes in these areas.
- Age: As you get older, your nails are more likely to be dry and brittle, which can allow fungus in. Slower circulation also makes it harder for your immune system to resist a fungus infection.
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.
How to Prevent Toenail Fungus Infections from Coming Back
The most effective way to get rid of toenail fungus that is lasting is to have laser treatment. This fast, easy, and painless process kills the fungus immediately, giving your toes the ability to heal fully without complications.
Once the fungus is eliminated and your nails are clear, you will want to take steps to ensure it does not return. If you do not change the behaviors that led to infection in the first place, it can easily come back.
Here are some tips on how to prevent toenail fungus from coming back:
- Wear moisture-wicking socks and breathable shoes.
- Change socks and shoes every day, or more often if they get sweaty.
- Rotate shoes at least every other day so that they can fully dry out.
- Use antifungal powders or sprays in your shoes to avoid giving fungi a chance to congregate.
- Periodically use topical anti-fungal medications to suppress fungal reinfection.
- Wash your feet every day with mild soap and water.
- Avoid going barefoot in communal or public areas.
- Never share socks or shoes with anyone else.
- Make sure to never share nail clippers, files, or other toenail grooming tools with anyone else.
- If you like going to the spa or getting pedicures in a salon, make sure you choose a facility that fully sterilizes all tools and baths for each customer.
Let Sunshein Podiatry Associates Treat Your Toenail Fungus
If you are sick of your unsightly fungal toenails and are ready to finally get rid of them—for good—let Sunshein Podiatry Associates help you with the best ways to treat toenail fungus! Give our office in Centerville, Ohio a call today at (937) 435-7477, or fill out our online contact form.
Remember the earlier you get your toenails evaluated and start treatment, the easier and quicker the treatment will be. So do not delay anymore to get your clear nails back again.
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