As common as fungal toenails are, they still come with such a social stigma that few people are willing to reveal them in public. Discolored, crumbly, brittle nails can cause awkward moments throughout life, and in some cases can even be painful. Just what is going on at nail level, and what can be done about it?
A Fungal Force
A fungal toenail infection, medically known as onychomycosis, occurs when microscopic organisms invade and begin thrive beneath the surface of the nail. There are different breeds of organisms that can be responsible, and yeasts and molds have also been known to cause an infection.
Fungi don’t need light to survive, but heavily rely on moisture and warmth. This makes the insides of shoes a reasonable breeding ground. Damp, public places where people tend to walk barefoot—such as community pools and locker rooms—provide higher risks of picking an infection up.
Our immune systems can often handle fungal invasions, but depends on its own strength and healthy circulation to do its job. The toes, which already have less blood flow than other parts of the body, can be more vulnerable to toenail fungus. Add a condition such as diabetes, peripheral arterial disease (PAD), or a weakened immune system and the risk climbs. Injuries to the nail and surrounding skin can also provide fungus a better opportunity to sneak in.
A toenail fungus infection tends to start off as an easily overlooked spot of discoloration on a nail, but will gradually worsen from there. The affected nail can eventually turn dull, thick, brittle, and distorted as debris builds up beneath the surface. If the nail begins to be forced away from the nailbed, there might also be pain. Sometimes a slight foul odor can also be detected.
Reclaiming Your Nails
Not every case of fungal toenails necessarily needs treatment, but this is a stubborn condition that will nearly never resolve itself on its own. In fact, it is likely to keep growing worse over time. If you want the best chances at easy, successful resolution of this problem, you will want to seek treatment as early into the infection as possible.
We will examine your nails, and sometimes will scrape off a small sample to be tested, just so we know exactly what we’re dealing with. Depending on the invader and the severity of the infection, we will work with you to determine a suitable treatment plan.
Oral medications may be an option, and can yield results over the course of several months. A medicated ointment or cream might also be prescribed, and the affected nails might be filed down to help the medicine reach the fungus with less difficulty.
In some severe cases, it might be considered best to perform a temporary surgical removal of the nail. This can allow for direct application of medicinal ointments, and can also help relieve the pain of a separated nail.
Fungal toenails are not something you have to endure and hide away from the world. There’s hope for clear nails again, especially when treatment starts early! Dr. Timothy Barry and the staff at Family Foot & Ankle Care of Jasper can provide the best care for your nails and help you avoid reinfection in the future. Simply call (812) 481-7200 or use our online form to schedule an appointment.