Toenail fungus is the kind of affliction that will make you want to throw away every pair of sandals you’ve ever owned.
It tends to slowly creep into your nail. Once its presence is known, however, it’s nearly impossible to ignore. A fungal toenail infection can make your nails:
- Discolored (from a sickly white to a yellow-brown mess)
- Distorted (sometimes to the point of being painful)
In other words, nasty.
Fungal toenails can be notoriously stubborn to clear out, and over-the-counter methods tend to be started too late into an infection to be much help. Fortunately, we have the latest technology to target and eradicate toenail fungus. The success rates of people reclaiming clear, normal nails is high and continuing to climb!
What Causes Fungal Toenails?
Well, the easiest answer is “a fungus,” but it’s somewhat more complicated than that.
Multiple breeds of fungus can cause an infection in the nails. The most common type is dermatophytes. However, yeasts and molds can also be culprits (each is also a type of fungus, just to be clear). Within this family of fungus is also the one that is responsible for tinea pedis, or athlete’s foot.
Our skin and immune systems tend to keep most fungal invaders from gaining any ground on us. However, a fungus can still sometimes get through a cut or other weakness around the nailbed and take root.
It is not easy for toenail fungus to spread directly from person to person, but it’s still possible. A fungus more often tends to spread via contact with where it thrives in warm, damp areas. This gives places like public pools, locker rooms, and showers a higher risk of contraction.
You are also more likely to get toenail fungus if you:
- Are older. Your toenails tend to naturally be more brittle and open to infection, and reduced blood flow reduces your ability to fight invaders.
- Sweat heavily. This creates more of the damp, warm environment fungus loves.
- Have a history of athlete’s foot. The same fungus can spread to your nails.
- Have diabetes. This condition also reduces blood flow and the body’s ability to fight fungal infections.
How Do You Get Rid of Fungal Toenails?
A fungal toenail infection will never just clear up in a few days. It takes steady, often specialized treatment to properly take care of. Sometimes, certain treatments may not work at all.
An extremely helpful first step—and one we are proud to offer at Total Foot and Ankle—is DNA analysis of a nail to determine exactly what type of fungus is responsible for the unsightly situation. Knowing this can guide us toward the optimal types of treatment and greatly increase our success rate!
Laser treatment is one of our primary forms of addressing fungal toenails. Using our in-house unit, we can specifically target areas of infection with different wavelengths of light energy, attacking the fungus while leaving surrounding, healthy tissue unharmed.
There is no pain involved with laser treatment (some patients report a feeling of warmth), and it typically takes several sessions of treatments for the fungus to be fully eradicated.
Other forms of treatment for a fungal infection may include topical anti-fungal ointments applied directly to the nail (sometimes filing it down to better reach the fungus within) or anti-fungal pills that are swallowed. The effectiveness of these methods can vary, however, and oral anti-fungal medications often come with side effects that keep them from being an option for everybody.
In rare, severe cases, we might recommend removal of the nail. Permanent removal is only recommended if the condition is causing pain.
What Can I Expect After Treatment?
Even when a treatment is fully successful, it does not mean the effects of a fungal nail infection vanish.
The damage caused to your nails will remain until clear, new nail grows in to replace it. This can take many months, but you will see the results gradually come in.
That said, if you have plans for wearing sandals on a future trip or just being sandal ready, don’t wait! Starting treatment as soon as possible will mean your clear, healthy nails come in sooner.
If you have fungal nail problems, or other conditions affecting your nails or skin, don’t hesitate to give us a call at (405) 947-8041. Our offices in Enid and Oklahoma City are here for you.