One of the most common complaints and questions that I receive as a podiatrist is about fungal toenails. As many people come to find out, fungal toenails can become unsightly, and can also cause deformity to the toenail itself. This may result in irritation of the nail by shoes and in fact may, at times, cause an ingrown toenail or bacterial infection. Fungus if often acquired through simple exposure to our environment (especially here in Florida). The fungi is found in the air around us, and frequently favors the foot because the foot is typically in a shoe which provides a dark, moist, warm area. This in turn creates an "incubator" which allows the fungus to grow (think about where mushrooms like to live). Although not completely understood, some people seem to be more prone to developing a fungal infection of the toenails than others.
There are a variety of factors that can effect the development of nail fungus. Some factors are diabetes mellitus, chemotherapy or immunosuppressive drugs, toenail polish, and environmental exposure to water and moisture to name a few. Treatment may range from the simple over-the-counter rememdy such as the application of white vinegar, and / or Teatree oil. More formal treatments may include, prescription topical medications, oral medications, laser therapy treatment, and sometimes removal of the infected fungal nail. Regardless of the treatment, elimination of fungal toenails can be quite stubborn and can take some time before results are seen.
If you have a fungal toenail problem that just doesn't seem to get better, consult your podiatrist for the best treatment options.