Living With A Toenail Fungus Infection
A toenail fungus might not seem like a big deal compared to other health conditions, but it can affect daily life activities and function to some degree.
Some patients experience pain, difficulty doing everyday activities, and fitting shoes. There is also a stigma surrounding nail fungus so many people are embarrassed that they have this, says Dr. Lipner.
Treatment is a lengthy process. It can be daunting to keep up with the treatment schedule when the results are slow coming.
If youre feeling depressed, embarrassed, and tired of dealing with pain and staying on top of your treatment, reach out to your doctor or mental health professional to chat about your concerns.
Next, these are the common foot problems and podiatrists solutions.
How to Treat Toenail Fungus
Ways to Get Rid of Ingrown Toenails
Signs of Disease Your Feet Can Reveal
- Shari Lipner, MD, dermatologist, associate professor of clinical dermatology at Weill Cornell Medicine, New York
- Joseph Zahn, MD, dermatologist, assistant professor of dermatology at the George Washington University Medical Faculty Associates, Washington, D.C.
- Sobera, J. Nails, “Proximal Subungual Onychomycosis,” Saunders, 2005
- Arenas, R. Nail Disorders, “Onychomycosis,” Elsevier, 2019
- Sobera, J. Nails, “White Superficial Onychomycosis,” Saunders, 2005
Stop This Skin Infection In Its Tracks With These Over
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Verywell Health / Sabrina Jiang
Toenail fungus is a common fungal condition that often starts after a rash on the foot spreads to the nails. When mild, it looks like white and yellow spots growing under the nail beds. But if left untreated, the fungus can grow severely by hardening the nails and spreading to other toes.
The fungus often begins in the form of athletes foot between the toes or on the soles of the feet. At this stage, the fungal infection is easier to treat with over-the-counter medication. But Shari Lipner, MD, a board-certified dermatologist at New York-Presbyterian Hospital/Weill Cornell Medicine, told Verywell Health toenail fungus can be difficult to treat because of how slow the nails grow. The more severe the toenail fungus, the thicker the nail, and the more nails involved makes it that much harder to treat the nails even with effective therapies, she says.
Diagnosing the fungal infection early is key to make treatments effective. Dr. Lipner recommends visiting a board-certified dermatologist to properly treat the infection if it grows to be too severe.
Here are a few of the best over-the-counter toenail fungus treatments on the market.
The Most Dangerous Types Of Fungi
Everyone should know which types of pathogenic microflora are especially dangerous. The consequences of ignoring the nail fungus can be irreparable if such types of mycosis are found in a person after a diagnostic examination:
- Dermatophytes. Onychomycosis is caused by one of 3 pathogens: Trichophyton, Microsporum, Epidermophyton. Strips of gray or yellow color appear on the nail plates, keratin becomes loose, uneven. It becomes thinner and at the last stage of the disease lags behind the nail bed
Dermatophytes the most common type of mycotic lesion. According to statistics, it is diagnosed in every third patient with onychomycosis.
- Yeast. Its development is caused by the fungus Candida. If a person has a strong immune system, this form of the disease does not threaten him, because the body maintains a balance of bad and positive microorganisms, and the cells that perform a protective function do not allow yeast fungi to increase their numbers. But if it is weakened under the influence of comorbidities or severe physical exhaustion, Candida fungi begin to multiply rapidly, affecting not only the internal organs of the person, but also penetrating the nail plates. They become thinner and crumble, the inflammatory process seizes the skin on the toes, causing them to redden and swell
See also: Fast and effective folk remedies for the fungus of toenails
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What About Bleach Baths
Bleach baths are an approach dermatologists may recommend for treating skin conditions such as atopic dermatitis and recurrent Staphylococcus infections on the skin. These involve mixing a very small amount of bleach in bath water typically a half cup of bleach to a full-sized bathtub of water.
While its true that bleach baths may temporarily kill bacteria, fungi, and viruses, the effects arent long-lasting and arent likely to treat an existing toenail fungal infection.
Top 5 Signs Your Toenail Fungus May Have Escalated To An Infection
A little case of toenail fungus is practically a rite of passage you quickly learn not to go barefoot in a locker room or shared shower area again and to always pack clean socks. But what happens when your toenail problem goes beyond a suspect smell and yellowed appearance?
At Rocky Mountain Foot and Ankle Center, with locations in Wheat Ridge, Granby, Evergreen, and Arvada, Colorado, our team of podiatrists and foot and ankle surgeons provide care for fungal toenail infections and much more. They believe in educating patients about skin and nail care so you can help avoid common problems and keep your feet healthy and strong.
Also Check: How To Get A Fungus Nail To Fall Off
Softening And Scraping Away The Nail
As it can take a long time for antifungal medication to work, some people may prefer to use a treatment that involves softening and removing infected parts of nail over a few weeks.
Treatment kits are available from pharmacies that contain a 40% urea paste, plasters and a scraping device. The paste softens the infected parts of the nail, allowing them to be scraped away so they can be gradually replaced with healthy nail.
To use the treatment:
When To See A Doctor
In most cases, toenail fungus is considered a cosmetic problem. Still, it may cause serious complications for some people.
If you have diabetes, toenail fungus may lead to foot ulcers or other foot problems. According to a 2012 study, chronic toenail fungus is a significant risk factor for bacterial cellulitis of the leg.
If you have diabetes or a weakened immune system, you shouldnt use home remedies for toenail fungus. Contact your doctor for the appropriate course of action.
Recommended Reading: What Causes Foot Fungus Between Toes
Signs And Symptoms Of A Fungal Nail Infection
A fungal nail infection may not cause any obvious symptoms at first.
As it progresses, the infection can cause:
- discolouration of the nail it may turn white, black, yellow or green
- thickening and distortion of the nail it may become an unusual shape or texture and be difficult to trim
- pain or discomfort particularly when using or placing pressure on the affected toe or finger
- brittle or crumbly nails pieces may break off and come away completely
Sometimes the skin nearby may also become infected and be itchy and cracked or red and swollen.
How Do You Get It
You make yourself receptive to this kind of infection by walking barefoot in damp or wet areas such as public shower rooms and around swimming pools.
A history of athletes foot, a problem of more than ordinary foot perspiration, or prior damage to a nail may contribute to the problem. People with ongoing health conditions such as diabetes, immune-related issues, or circulatory difficulties are especially at risk.
Also Check: Is Castor Oil Good For Toenail Fungus
Special Groups At Risk For Complications In Severe Onychomycosis
Delaying the treatment of a nail fungus until its late stages can be excruciatingly challenging. For some people with other diseases/conditions, avoiding the onset of severe onychomycosis is essential. The dangers that involve the end-stage nail disease can lead to an even more harmful situation for them.
Nail Fungus Can Cause Other Forms Of Body Infections
Other body infections are a huge risk when a nail fungal infection is ignored. As mentioned, nail fungal infections may contaminate the surrounding skin. When the skin becomes cracked and open, bacteria can easily enter and create a widespread infection all over your body.
A simple fungal nail infection can lead to cellulitis. This condition produces swollen, red, tender skin and demands immediate treatment with antibiotics. Severe cellulitis can also enter the bloodstream and become life-threatening.
Why You Should Never Let Toenail Fungus Go Untreated
Have you retired those adorable strappy sandals, even though theyre the perfect complement to your summery outfits? They definitely wont work with whats going on with your toenails so youve had to opt for a closed-toe option. Toenail fungus is definitely not a good look.
There are plenty of home remedies, but they dont seem to work. And nail fungus doesnt just go away on its own. Fortunately, the team at Easton Dermatology Associates can address any nail fungus issue you may have with a diverse menu of treatment options. We customize our approach to your particular infections history and severity.
How Do Dermatologists Diagnose Nail Fungus
To find out if a patient has nail fungus, a dermatologist examines your nails and nearby skin. Its important to check the skin because the fungus can spread. You may already have a skin infection caused by fungus like athletes foot.
To get rid of the infection, you will need to treat all infected areas.
Before giving you the diagnosis, your dermatologist may also take some samples. Collecting a bit of debris from beneath a nail, trimming off part your nail, or scraping off a bit of skin can be very helpful. In a lab, these samples can be examined under a microscope to find out whats causing the problem.
Are you hiding an infected nail with nail polish?
Be sure to ask your dermatologist if you can wear nail polish while treating nail fungus.
Recommended Reading: Will Nail Fungus Go Away On Its Own
What Is Dangerous About Toenail Fungus If Not Treated
Onychomycosis is a disease in which parasitic fungi invade the nail plate and the surrounding skin. Many are in no hurry to treat the disease, because they think that it is not dangerous for the body. However, it is not. Symptoms of fungal infection are growing rapidly, especially with a weakened immune system. Further, there is a partial or complete destruction of the nail plates, severe complications are manifested, which in isolated cases threaten a sick person to death. But this is not all that you need to know about pathogenic microorganisms.
Fungus Into The Bloodstream
This only happens in a serious stage of toenail fungus, people with very weak immune system and people with HIV/AIDS and Diabetes are known to face this danger. When the fungus enters the deeper skin, causing cellulitis thats when the disesase will enter the bloodstream. If you believe you are experiencing a fungal blood infect, i highly suggest you contact your doctor immediately.
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A Family History Of Toenail Fungus
“Toenail fungal infection can be affected by heredity and some families are more prone to it than others. In these cases, toenail fungus is sometimes seen at an earlier age,” says Cary Zinkin, DPM, a podiatrist in Deerfield Beach, Florida, and a spokesperson for the American Podiatric Medical Association. According to the American Academy of Family Physicians, toenail fungus is most common in men over age 60. If you have a family history of toenail fungal infections, take time to inspect your feet daily and see a doctor promptly if you suspect toenail fungus.
Toenail Fungus Symptoms And Risk Factors
Toenail fungus symptoms are not pretty. At first, you may notice small white spots and possibly a foul smell. As the condition worsens, your nail gets thicker, which makes it harder to trim or cut, and turns yellow or brown. Nail fungus can spread from nail to nail and, eventually, make your nails split and crumble.
In addition to older people, people with certain conditions like diabetes or psoriasis are at higher risk for developing fungus. Other risk factors include having a history of athletes foot, which is an infection between your toes, a propensity for sweaty feet, and those with a weakened immune system.
Recommended Reading: Can Tea Tree Oil Help Nail Fungus
Symptoms To Look Out For
There are several symptoms to look out for if you believe that you are developing fungal infection in your toenails. Some of the more easily distinguished symptoms include discoloration, brittle appearance of the toenail and dulled surface. The toenail can also develop a misshapen form that allows debris to easily enter within the nail and get lodged which further complicates the infection.
Worst case scenario comes when the toenail itself becomes detached and feels as if it will fall off.
It is important that you take the proper steps in treating toenail fungal infections the moment you see any type of symptoms as once fully developed the infection can be quite hard to eliminate permanently. Consult your doctor immediately to get the right prescription medications.
On My First Visit Dr Patel Diagnosed The Problem As Plantar Fasciitis And Began Treatment
I was dealing with nearly unbearable pain in my left foot. I was barely able to get through each day. I was sure my neuropathy was the problem. I went to a local podiatrist who told me the only problem I had was the neuropathy in my feet and I needed to see a neurologist. After conferring with my family doctor he referred me to Dr. Sanjay Patel.
On my first visit, Dr. Patel diagnosed the problem as Plantar Fasciitis and began treatment. After following Dr. Patels advice I no longer have pain in my left foot.
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Runners And Toenail Fungus
Toenail fungal infections are often a health issue for runners. “Distance runners sweat quite a bit,” Zinkin says. And sweaty socks and tight running shoes create the perfect moist environment for the growth of toenail fungus. Try using special socks that wick away moisture to keep feet dry. It’s also smart to alternate running shoes and allow each pair to dry out completely between wearings.
What Tests Might Be Done
Your doctor may be able to tell that you have a fungal nail infection just by looking at your toes or your fingers. But they may do some tests to be sure.
They may decide to take a sample of your nails. The clippings can be tested to see if fungus is in them.
If you do have nail fungus, you and your doctor will decide what treatment is best for you.
Also Check: What Kills Toenail Fungus Home Remedies
Soak Your Feet In Vinegar
Heres another pantry item that can deliver optimal results for toenail fungal infections. According to Hayag, applying white vinegar to the fungal-infected areas can prove worthwhile, thanks to its antibacterial properties.
Similar to oregano oil, applying white vinegar topically on fungus-infected toenails has some anecdotal evidence that supports its antibacterial benefits. Soak your foot in one part vinegar to two parts warm water for up to 20 minutes daily, she suggests, saying that this can help with the fungus, help with just the discoloration, or it may not help at all, depending on how your toes react.
Fungal Nail Infection Symptoms
Because the toes and feet are often exposed to damp, warm areas, where the infection is spread, fungal nail infections affect the toes more than the fingers. Your feet are also more likely to be exposed to fungal infections if you:
- Spend time at swimming pools
- Walk around a lot in locker rooms
- Wear the same pair of damp, sweaty sneakers all the time
- Injure your toenail
At first, you may have no outward symptoms. But over time, your nails may:
- Have white spots appear on the surface
- Turn white, yellow, green or brown
- Grow thicker than normal or, in some cases, thinner than normal
- Become brittle, with broken or jagged edges
- Change shape, curling up or down
- Lift off of the nail bed
- Smell bad
- Cause you pain
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Why Toenail Fungus Should Never Go Untreated
While toenail fungus is common about 10% of all Americans and 50% of people over 70 get it its still an unpleasant and embarrassing condition. Its also contagious and difficult to treat. But that doesnt mean you shouldnt avoid treating it.
In the early stages, toenail fungus will likely not cause discomfort or embarrassing yellow, thick nails or pain that can make walking difficult. And, if you seek treatment early, you can prevent it from getting worse and painful.
Is Toenail Fungus Really Such A Problem
If youre thinking you can just live with it, we dont advise letting toenail fungus go untreated. Its an insidious problem, and without treatment, you have to deal with the discomfort of the nail as well as feeling self-conscious about its unsightliness.
If you let a nail fungus infection go for too long, several problems emerge. The infected nail can become misshapen and increasingly separated from your nail bed. Itching and pain are unpleasant side effects if theyre too severe, you can have trouble wearing shoes or walking.
You need to be especially attentive to treating toenail fungus if your immune system is compromised. If youre living with diabetes, its critical not to ignore the fungus. Even a mild infection like this can snowball into something more serious, like cellulitis, a severe bacterial skin infection.
Another problem is that untreated fungus eventually can spread to either neighboring toenails or to the skin of your foot, causing athletes foot. Possibly the worst outcome of untreated nail fungus is needing to have your nail surgically removed.