A fungal infection (onychomycosis) is not something people usually want to think or talk about. When you realize you have fungal toenails, it might elicit a shudder or make you cringe at the thought. Foot & Ankle Associates of Florida wants to put your mind at ease. Our office staff and our podiatrists are ready to treat your toenails and provide tips to keep your toenails fungus-free. Of course, the first step in the process is a better understanding of this condition.
Toenail Fungus Signs and Symptoms
The most apparent signs and symptoms of this particular fungal infection are the physical appearance and attributes of the affected toenails. From an appearance standpoint, they will look discolored, thickened, and dull. Additionally, you will find that the toenails crumble easily and are probably quite ragged along their edges. Depending on the severity of the infection, the nails may separate from their respective nail beds.
Fungal Toenail Treatment
A good starting point for treating infected nails is with prevention at home. If you have contracted a mild case, or are fortunate to catch the infection early enough, you may be able to handle it on your own. Home remedies are typically based on the use of store-bought antifungal products to clear the condition. To better improve the effectiveness of the process, you will likely need to trim and thin the affected nails before applying the product. This will allow the antifungal agent to penetrate deeper into the nail tissue.
Over-the-counter products might be worth trying, but it is important to know they are not always effective for clearing up the problem. This means there is a good chance you will ultimately need professional treatment. We do have different alternatives we can use for your fungal infection, including topical medications, laser therapy, and in some cases, oral medication.
Oral and topical medications each take a different approach. Oral medications attack the microorganisms curing the fungus from within the body, but may have serious side effects. So discuss this option with your doctor before beginning an oral medication treatment. Topical medications work from the outside. Recent advancements in technology have provided an encouraging option—laser therapy for the treatment of your toenail fungus.
Laser nail treatment is the state-of-the-art way to address fungal nail infections. This method is safe (FDA-approved), painless, and without any known side effects. Patients are pleased that treatment sessions are quick and easy. If we recommend this course of action, it will be important for you to understand it will take some time for your body to produce new, clear nail tissue to replace the old, infected fungal nails. The goal with laser treatment is to treat the nail bed so a new, healthy toenail grows out.
Preventing Fungal Infections
Although Foot & Ankle Associates of Florida will provide the care you need for fungal toenails, you probably would rather not develop onychomycosis in the first place. Fortunately, we have some preventative measures you can take to reduce your risk of developing this condition:
- Follow daily hygiene practices. Wash your feet daily with mild soap and warm water, being sure to clean between the toes. Dry your feet completely (be sure to dry between your toes) and keep your toenails trimmed straight across.
- Wash your hands. If you come into contact or deliberately touch an infected nail, be sure to wash your hands to avoid passing along the offensive fungus.
- Wear moisture-wicking socks. Help keep your feet dry by choosing socks that are made from materials like wool and nylon that wick moisture away. Be sure to change your socks if they become damp during the course of the day.
- Air your feet. When you are at home, air out your feet by walking barefoot (if you do not have diabetes or neuropathy issues) or wearing open-toed shoes or sandals.
- Protect your feet! Make sure you protect your feet in gym locker rooms, shower areas, and on pool decks by wearing sandals or flip flops. These locations offer the greatest risk of contracting toenail fungus.