It may start as a small white or yellow spot on your toenail. Not believing it’s anything serious, you go on with your life. Soon, the spot enlarges and your toenail starts to actually deteriorate – it starts to crumble, yellow, and become thick and painful.
Patients are usually embarrassed by toenail fungus, believing it’s the result of poor hygiene. It isn’t. Toenail fungus, called onychomycosis, is the result of microscopic fungi which make their way into the toenail, usually through cracks or other damage. It can also be caused by a mold or yeast infection.
If your feet were constantly exposed to air and light, fungus wouldn’t have much of an opportunity to grow. But since your feet are surrounded by shoes and socks all day, creating a dark, wet environment, a fungal infection can grow quickly. There is also little blood circulation to your toenails, making it more difficult for your body to fight an infection in this area. For diabetics or those with a compromised immune system, toenail fungus can become quite serious if not addressed in a timely manner.
Symptoms of toenail fungus
- Toenail becomes thick
- Toenail has a “dull” color and may become darker or lighter
- Change in shape may occur
- Toenail may separate from the nail bed
- Toenail may have a dry, crumbly, or brittle texture
- Toenail may become painful
- Toenail may emit a foul odor
Click here for images of different types of toenail fungus from the University of Iowa
How to avoid getting toenail fungus
- Don’t walk barefoot in public areas like locker rooms, showers, swimming pools, and saunas – wear flip-flops
- Treat athlete’s foot immediately, as the two conditions are caused by the same fungus
- Wear shoes that fit properly so your toes aren’t squeezed together
- Regular exercise helps to increase blood flow to the feet, important in fighting infection
- Don’t wear wet socks – put on a fresh pair after exercising
- Keep your feet dry with absorbent, anti-fungal foot powder and dry thoroughly after bathing
- Treat hangnails and ingrown toenails immediately – the fungus that creates infection enters through cracks and trauma around the toenail
- Do not share nail files or clippers
Once infected, toenail fungus will not go away on its own and requires medical treatment to eliminate. Your podiatrist may recommend topical creams or oral medications, and in extreme cases, surgery to remove the nail may be necessary. Oral meds have significant side effects, so monitoring by your podiatrist is required.
In our opinion, the most effective and best treatment to remove toenail fungus is the Pinpointe Foot Laser which is safe and reliable. Performed on an outpatient basis in the PA Foot and Ankle Associates office, this laser treatment is painless, requires no medication or topical ointments, and can be successful in as little as one thirty-minute treatment.
No matter your age, you can get a toenail fungal infection, and if you’re male, you’re more likely to get it than a woman. Studies have also shown a genetic link. The elderly are more at risk, as blood circulation in the feet decreases as we age, and our nails thicken, making them more susceptible to fungal infection.