Do you dread looking down at your bare feet? Maybe it’s because your toenails or yellowed, brittle or thickened. They may even hurt. These are typical signs of toenail fungus.
Toenail fungus is a common infection, one that has steadily increased worldwide. In fact, about 40 million Americans have toenail fungus, and some estimates are that toenail fungus affects approximately 25 percent of the world’s population.
What exactly is toenail fungus? Toenail fungus, technically known as onychomycosis, is an infection that enters through nail cracks or cuts in the skin. Toes are often enclosed in an environment that keeps them warm and damp, making it an ideal breeding ground for fungus. And because it is contagious, it often spreads from one nail to the others. Yet regardless of the well-known causes of the condition, there are still a number of myths about how people contract toenail fungus.
Who Gets Toenail Fungus?
While anyone can find him or herself with toenail fungus, it happens more frequently in men than women and among older people more often than younger people. Certain risk factors predispose people to acquire this fungal infection. These include:
- A family history of toenail fungus
- A history of athlete’s foot
- Heavy or excessive sweating
- Skin conditions, such as psoriasis, that create cracked or open skin
- Tight shoes and nylon hosiery
- Use of heavy nail polish on a consistent basis
- Walking barefoot in communal damp areas such as gym showers or swimming pools
- Weakened immune system
Treatments Options for Toenail Fungus
Toenail fungus should be treated. Onychomycosis treatment is especially important for those with complicating factors, and more severe cases. More serious consequences, such as deformed nails, can lead to damage in surrounding tissue as well as secondary bacterial infections. A study in the journal Diabetes Care suggests that fungal nail infections are associated with an increased risk of foot amputation in people with diabetes.
In addition, at least one study review has emphasized the psychological and social impact of toenail fungus, an aspect that is not always given enough consideration by healthcare professionals, but one that negatively affects those who suffer from it.
While there are extensive lists of over-the-counter treatments and home remedies for toenail fungus, attempting to solve the problem on one’s own can lead to even further difficulties. And while some of these methods may temporarily work, the condition may still come back.
A qualified podiatrist can more expertly diagnose the problem, determine its cause and thus treat most effectively. After all, toenail fungus is an infection and should be treated by a doctor, like all other infections. Treatment may take up to a year to fully clear the infection, so it’s important to start as soon as possible.
At Essex Union Podiatry, we are offer a variety of treatments. We stay up-to-date on the latest clinical and technological advances and provide successful results. Treatment choices depend on the type and severity of the problem, which can be determined by our qualified experts. Options include:
Topical creams: Antifungal creams or other solutions may be prescribed to apply to affected toenails following soaking of the feet. Topical treatments are not always effective because the creams have trouble penetrating the nail bed.
Oral antifungal drugs: These medications, approved by the Food and Drug Administration and taken for several months, can be very effective. Choices include terbinafine (Lamisil) and itraconazole (Sporanox). Debridement (removal of the affected nail material) may be part of this treatment. A topical cream may also be prescribed.
Surgery: Chronic and painful nails that have resisted other treatment may be permanently removed to facilitate a cure and prevent the regrowth of deformed nails.
Laser treatment: Laser treatment for toenail fungus takes advantage of mid-infrared wavelengths to penetrate the nail and eradicate the infection. This is a quick, painless and noninvasive treatment and is an alternative to all of the above treatments. Its benefits also include no side effects or downtime.
Prevention is the Best Medicine
Ultimately, the best way to deal with toenail fungus is to prevent it. Follow these tips to help to help prevent this condition, or to avoid it from reoccurring following treatment.
- Avoid walking barefoot in communal areas such as locker rooms or pools
- Don’t share shoes or nail clippers and nail files
- Don’t wear damp shoes
- Disinfect home shower areas regularly with a bleach cleaner
- Make sure that nail salons are sanitizing tools and disinfecting footbaths
- Trim toenails short and straight across and use sanitized clippers or scissors
- Use antifungal powders or sprays inside of shoes and socks
- Wash and dry feet regularly
- Wear breathable footwear
Essex Union Podiatry (EUP) is a complete foot and ankle practice serving the podiatric needs of Essex and Union counties. Our specialty-trained physicians utilize the latest techniques and tools to diagnose and treat conditions such as toenail fungus and provide preventive care for all foot and ankle conditions. We emphasize patient education and provide personalized care with a treatment plan tailored to meet individual needs.
For more information or to schedule an appointment with one of our podiatrists, contact us today.