Toenail fungus, also called onychomycosis or tinea unguium, is an infection that develops under the surface of the toenail. If treatment isn't sought when symptoms first present, the fungal infection can extend deeper into the nail, causing the nail thicken, become weak, and eventually fall off.
Although many patients don't realize it, there are several types of fungus that contribute to fungal infection in the toenails, each requiring unique treatment. These include:
Because there are several different kinds of toenail fungus, and each can worsen if left untreated and put you at risk of losing a toenail, it's important to seek diagnosis and treatment from a podiatrist as soon as you notice symptoms. The most common signs and symptoms include:
Some patients aren't bothered by minor fungal infections and may not seek treatment, but it's important to note that these infections are often contagious and can spread to others. Additionally, contagious fungal infections can spread to your other toenails. Toenails are especially vulnerable around damp areas where people are likely to be walking barefoot - swimming pools, locker rooms, and showers. Injury to the nail bed may make it more susceptible to all types of infection, including fungal infection. Those who suffer chronic diseases, such as diabetes, circulatory problems, or immune-deficiency conditions, are especially prone to fungal nails.
While fungal nail infections are traditionally hard to treat, laser technology has provided new success for patients. Laser treatment is a highly effective non-invasive treatment for mild to severe fungal infections of the nails. Other treatments include oral or topical medications. In some severe cases, nail avulsion surgery may be recommended.
There are a variety of products that can be used on the foot and toe nails that kill the tinea pedis fungus, such as:
Clean, dry feet resist disease. Wash the feet with soap and water, and dry thoroughly. Shower shoes should be worn in public areas. Shoes, socks and hosiery should be changed daily. Use a quality foot powder, talcum not cornstarch. Buy shoes that fit well and are made of materials that breathe.
Your Podiatrist can detect a fungal infection early. A suitable treatment plan may include prescribing topical or oral medication (such a Lamisil or Sporonax), and debridgement (removal of diseased nail matter and debris) of an infected nail. Debridgment is one of the most common foot care procedures performed by DPMs. In some cases, surgical treatment may be required. Temporary removal of the infected nail can be performed to permit direct application of a topical antifungal. Permanent removal of a chronically painful nail, which has not responded to any other treatment, permits the fungal infection to be cured and prevents the return of a deformed nail.