It’s hard to hide the outward signs of a fungal nail infection. Once these undesirable microbes get between the nail and the skin, they can do some very real, very noticeable damage. What begins as a small white or yellow dot near the tip of the nail can grow over time. In a severe case, the symptoms may include:
- Yellowish discoloration throughout the nail
- Significant increase in nail thickness
- Nails that are crumbly, brittle, tear easily, and may even become warped and deformed in appearance.
Although these symptoms are more cosmetic than medically serious for most people, they can be deeply distressing and embarrassing. Worse, without corrective measures, they will not get better. In fact, they will only worsen, and potentially spread to skin, other toenails, or even other people. That’s why you should visit Freeland Foot & Ankle Clinic and take steps to correct the problem as soon as possible!
Where Toenail Fungus Comes From
This condition, known scientifically as onychomycosis, is caused by a familiar class of skin, nail, and hair-loving organisms that are also responsible for athlete’s foot and ringworm, among others. So for starters, if you have any fungal skin infections, you may have unintentionally transferred them to your toenails through direct or indirect contact.
The same fungi love environments that are warm and wet, and can also survive for a period of time on objects or surfaces before being transferred to another individual. Wearing sweaty shoes often is one way to pick up the infection. Another common potential cause is going barefoot in communal areas such as pools, locker rooms, or gyms.
Fungal nail infections are more likely in older adults as well as those who suffer from diabetes, because the reduced circulation makes it harder for the body to fight infection. Minor cuts and skin conditions also present opportunities for the fungi to get under the nail.
Fungal Toenail Treatment
Eradicating a fungal toenail infection takes time and dedication, but it can be done! The fungi won’t go without a fight, and low circulation to the toes means medication may take several weeks to do their work. However, if you are consistent with your treatment, you have an excellent chance to restore healthy looking nails.
In most cases, we’ll start you on a regimen of oral antifungal pills. These need to be taken for a period of time, typically 12 weeks. Because oral antifungals may cause some side effects, we may schedule one or more follow-up appointments to ensure you can continue to take the medication safely.
Those who are unable to take oral medications may instead use a combination of regularly thinning the nail and applying a topical antifungal. The downside is that treatment may take much longer this way, but it offers a safe option for those who cannot risk taking the pills.
Once the fungi have been killed, the portion of the nail that has already been damaged will need to grow out naturally. However, healthy and clear nail should take its place.
Fungal Nail Aftercare
Considering the investment of time required to restore clear nails after a fungal infection, it’s important to protect your nails to prevent a recurrence. It’d be a shame to have to go through treatment a second time, so don’t let it happen to you!
To help prevent a re-infection, practice these self-care steps:
- Wash your feet every day and dry them thoroughly.
- Use antifungal powders or sprays on feet and inside shoes.
- Don’t let socks and shoes get damp. Choose breathable fabrics and change pairs as often as needed to keep them dry.
- Always wear shower shoes or sandals (even flip flops) in communal areas.
- Trim nails straight across, not too short, and disinfect your clippers afterward.
- Avoid nail polish and artificial nails, which can trap moisture and create a fungal breeding ground.
- Avoid nail salons. If you do go, make sure all tools and equipment are fully sterilized between customers (or bring your own tools).
If your toenails are starting to look a little yellowed—or have been for some time—the friendly, caring team at Freeland Foot & Ankle Clinic are ready to help you regain a healthy appearance. Give us a call at (989) 695-6788 to schedule today.