How does a toenail fungus problem develop, and who’s at risk?
Toenail fungus typically starts out small and results from a fungal infection entering your nail bed. You spy just a little yellow or white spot on a single nail, but the discoloration eventually affects your whole nail and tends to spread to other toenails.
You then notice your nails starting to thicken and crumble. A bad odor may also develop. As the problem gets more severe, your nail may even become misshapen or come loose from the nail bed.
Although it’s possible for fungus to affect your fingernails, it’s much more common on your toenails because nail fungus loves moist environments, like tight shoes, and since it’s also very contagious, many people pick it up in locker rooms or around swimming pools.
You’re at higher risk for developing an infection if you live with diabetes, and there’s a higher chance you’ll be affected the older you get.
Why you shouldn’t ignore toenail fungus
Unfortunately, toenail fungus isn’t easy to treat. Many home treatments, such as applying VicksⓇ VapoRub™ to the toenail, might help someone here or there, but the problem often comes back. You need a podiatrist’s treatment to truly eradicate fungus.
If toenail fungus goes untreated and worsens, you can experience:
- Permanent nail damage
- Bleeding around your nails
- Swelling around the nails
- Increased distortion and separation from the nail bed
- Tenderness and pain around the nails, leading to problems walking
It’s important, no matter how far your toenail fungus has progressed, to get treatment from a skilled podiatrist.
Is there treatment for toenail fungus that actually works?
Thankfully, yes. When you visit us, your podiatrist visually evaluates your affected nails to ensure that fungus is the correct diagnosis.
Some other conditions can be mistaken for fungus, so your doctor might test a sample from your nail to determine if you actually have nail fungus and if so, exactly which type is responsible for your infection.
Given how difficult toenail fungus is to treat, and the many topical treatments and oral medications that fail to eradicate it, you might even think you’ve gotten rid of it, only to have it recur.
Traditional treatment also isn’t speedy, since it may be a year or more for you to really see healthy nail growing.
We treat toenail fungus with a “one-two punch,” so to speak — a combination of antifungal toenail polish and an FDA-approved high-tech option, laser nail treatment.
The laser is really the only thing that penetrates the problem nail to get to where the fungus lives — underneath it. In fact, clinical trials show that laser treatment has up to a 90% success rate.
Contrary to what you might think, the treatment doesn’t destroy the fungus; it stops fungal growth so your healthy nail can grow out gradually. You see new, healthy growth after about three months, and real results in 6-9 months.
The other side of the battle, once your treatments have succeeded, is preventing fungus in the future. Your doctor advises you on ensuring the problem doesn’t return. This includes taking steps like keeping your feet clean and dry, trimming your nails straight across, and never walking barefoot around a pool or in a locker room.
Your podiatrist decides how many treatment sessions you need based on the severity of your fungal problem, but when they apply the laser treatment to your nails, you feel no discomfort and can go back to your life as usual following the brief treatment.
If you’re one of the estimated 1 in 10 people who suffer with nail fungus or are experiencing bothersome symptoms, it’s past time to get it treated. Let us help.
Your feet are in the best hands at South Florida Foot & Ankle Centers. Call the office that’s most convenient to you and schedule an appointment with us to get treated, or request one online.