Toenail fungus ordinarily begins as a white or yellow spot under the tip of your toenail. As the fungus worsens, symptoms like discoloration, nail thickening and crumbling appear. While the fungus can spread and affect multiple toenails at once, it usually does not disturb all 10 toenails simultaneously. Fungus that affects the skin between your toes and around your feet is called athlete’s foot.
Consider the following side effects of nail fungus:
- Darkening due to debris buildup
- Distorted nail shape
- Thickened nails
- Brittle or ragged nails
- Dull appearance
- Detachment from the nail bed in severe infections
Fungal infections of the nail are caused by dermatophyte fungus, yeasts or molds. Fungi enter the skin through tiny cuts or small separations between the nail and nailbed. These germs live in moist environments, like swimming pools and shower floors. Because they don’t need sunlight to survive, fungi thrive within dark and warm conditions. For this reason, socks and shoes are hotbeds for fungi growth. Compared to your fingernails, toenails are more susceptible to fungus because feet tend to see less blood flow, making it a challenge for the immune system to deter infections.
Usually, your probability of encountering toenail fungus increases as you get older. But, situations like heavy perspiration, genetics, walking barefoot, history of athlete’s foot, psoriasis, diabetes, circulations problems and weakened immune systems make toenail fungus feasible.
Even if you aren’t experiencing pain, treating nail fungus helps minimize your odds of recurrent infection. Severe toenail fungus may cause permanent damage to your nail. Infections can worsen and spread beyond your feet, particularly in patients with suppressed immune systems or diabetes.
To treat toenail fungus, we may recommend a combination of oral antifungal drugs, medicated nail polish and/or medicated nail cream. In some instances, nail removal is necessary for a fresh, healthy nail to grow in its place. It usually takes about a year for the new nail to grow fully, and we treat the nail bed with antifungal agents to disinfect the area.
In addition to surgical removal, JAWS Podiatry offers laser and light therapy as a standalone treatment or alongside antifungal oral medication. A gentle laser light beam kills the fungus that lives underneath the toenail and promotes clear nail growth. Results usually appear after one to three treatments, on average.