In Houston, it’s sandal weather for the better part of the year. It makes sense that you want your toenails looking good. Unfortunately, Houston is also hot and humid much of the year. That’s the perfect weather for fungus to thrive. If you’ve had a fungal infection of your toenails, you know it takes a while for it to get better, even with treatment. If you think you have a fungus infection, don't wait. Contact us for an immediate appointment to get it checked.
What is Toenail Fungus?
Toenail fungus, also known as onychomycosis, is an infection beneath the toenail. Unlike most infections that are caused by bacteria, this infection is due to fungus. The infection causes changes to the appearance of the toenail. This is your first sign that you may be suffering with a fungal infection of the toenail. These changes don’t look nice. They also may cause pain. But there are straight-forward solutions to curing a toenail fungus.
Causes of Toenail Fungus
Fungus naturally lives on your feet and in your shoes. In warm, humid climates such as Houston, that is especially true. Then you put your foot in a sock and shoe. This adds to the dark, moist, warm, environment which allows the fungus to thrive.
Fungus is an opportunist. That means that if the fungus is given an opportunity to infect, it will. If you stub your toe and damage the nail, that gives the fungus the opportunity to infect. But the injury doesn’t have to be that dramatic.
Simply wearing shoes can give fungus the opportunity to infect your toenails. As you walk, your toenails may hit the top or end of your shoe. That doesn’t hurt, but it causes small amounts of trauma. It makes your toenails more susceptible to becoming infected with fungus. If you are a runner or take part in any sport, the pressure on your toenails increases. So does the trauma to your toenails and the opportunity for infection.
Certain predisposing conditions may cause you to be more likely to develop a fungal infection of your toenails. People with diabetes have a reduced immune system. This makes them more likely to develop a toenail fungus. If you have reduced circulation, you are also more at risk. Any illness that reduces your immune system makes a fungal infection more likely. And having a simple case of athlete’s foot can spread and infect your toenails too.
Symptoms of Toenail Fungus
It’s possible for you to have toenail fungus and never have any pain from it. In fact, most of the symptoms of toenail fungus are in the appearance of the toenail. The most common symptoms of toenail fungus include:
- Thickening of the toenail
- Yellowing of the toenail
- Toenails become brittle and deformed
- White, chalky debris beneath the toenail
- Foul odor from the toenail
- Developing an ingrown toenail
- Tenderness or sensitivity surrounding the toenail
Diagnosis of Toenail Fungus
Many cases of toenail fungus don’t need much more than a clinical examination to diagnose it. Sometimes it is unclear whether the appearance of a toenail is due to a fungal infection. The changes to the toenail may be a reaction to trauma. In these cases, it requires further testing.
The test to diagnose a fungal infection of the toenail is simple and painless. A section of the affected toenail is removed by simply clipping the nail. I’ll then scrape some of the debris from under the nail. I’ll send it off to the lab where they can break it down and examine it microscopically. The results from this test usually comes back in about a week. This way, I can recommend the most effective treatment for your toenail condition.
Treatment of Toenail Fungus
If you look in the foot care aisle of your local pharmacy, you’ll see lots of over the counter treatments for toenail fungus. The problem is that none of them are effective. They don’t penetrate the toenail and treat the fungus beneath it. There are, however, effective treatments for toenail fungus. No matter what treatment we pursue, it takes about 9-12 months for the toenail to grow out fully. So, it’ll take a while before your nails are clear again.
Treating Toenail Fungus with Oral Medication
An oral medication is the best option for many patients suffering with toenail fungus. It is certainly the most effective option. This is true because the medication doesn’t have to penetrate the toenail to reach the fungus. It travels through your bloodstream, beneath the toenail, and works to cure the fungus. They typical course of treatment is to take the medication daily for 90 days.
You may be concerned about the potential effects of this medication on their liver. Any food or medication is broken down by either the liver or kidneys. We know this medication goes through the liver. We also know after over 25 years of using this medication that it doesn’t cause liver problems. I’m pretty conservative though. I’ll take a blood test or look at a recent one that you already have. This will tell me that your liver is happy and healthy to take the medication.
Treating Toenail Fungus with Topical Medication
There are prescription strength topical medication available that effectively treat toenail fungus. The difference is that these medications can penetrate the toenail. This allows it to treat the fungus beneath it. The effectiveness is less than that of the oral medication. It is a good choice if you are not a candidate to take the oral medication. Or you may prefer not to take a pill to treat your toenail fungus. You can expect to use a topical medication twice daily for six to nine months.
Treating Toenail Fungus with Surgery
In rare cases where your toenail fungus causes pain, I may recommend surgical treatment. This involves removing the toenail and treating the nail bed with antifungal medication. I hesitate to recommend surgical treatment. Removing the toenail creates more trauma to it. This trauma can deform the nail. It is also possible for the nail to return with a fungus infection, even with treatment of the nail bed. Like I said, I’ll only recommend this treatment if there is considerable pain from the toenail.
Prevention of Toenail Fungus
There are things you can do to prevent toenail fungus. They are also good guidelines after you’ve successfully treated your toenail fungus. They’ll help prevent a reinfection.
- Wash your feet well with soap. Make sure you dry your feet well before putting on your socks
- Wear moisture-wicking socks. This will help to keep your feet dry.
- Wear shoes that breathe. You should use an anti-fungal spray after you remove your shoes each day. This will prevent fungus growing in your shoes which can cause an infection.
- Be sure to wear footwear in locker rooms and around pool areas
- Be sure your pedicure salon sterilizes their instruments and disinfects properly. Even better, bring your own instruments. This way you know they’re only used for you.
- Do not wear acrylic nails on your toes.
- If you suffer from athlete’s foot, be sure to treat it.
Houston Podiatrist Dr. Andrew Schneider Treats Toenail Fungus
The best time to get treatment for your toenail fungus is now. If you have noticed some thickening and discoloration of the toenail, don’t wait. The earlier your start treating nail fungus, the better your results will be. Give us a call or contact us online to request an appointment.