How To Tell If You Have Toenail Fungus And What To Do About It
Toenail fungus. It’s embarrassing, an eyesore, and it could potentially be a sign of an underlying health issue.
However, toenail fungus isn’t always easy to identify. There are many types of toenail fungi that can all appear differently on your nails. Other times, people who think they have toenail fungus actually don’tit’s something else entirely.
Are you unsure of how to tell if you have toenail fungus or not? In this post, we’re going to explain how to identify toenail fungus and what to do if you’ve got it. Read along to learn more!
Nail Fungus And Nail Psoriasis Differences
There are a few key differences between the two conditions. Nail fungus has a few symptoms that generally dont occur in nail psoriasis. These include:
- Debris under the nail that can look dark in color2,4
- Brittle nails that are more likely to split2,4
- A mild, foul-smelling odor2
Nail psoriasis also has a few unique symptoms, that dont usually occur in fungal infections. These include:
- Pitting of the nail, 1
- Deformed nail shape3
Tips To Prevent Fungal Nail Infections
Making a few simple lifestyle changes can help prevent a fungal infection of the nails. Taking good care of your nails by keeping them well trimmed and clean is a good way to prevent infections.
Also avoid injuring the skin around your nails. If youre going to have damp or wet hands for an extended amount of time, you may want to wear rubber gloves.
Other ways to prevent fungal infections of the nails include:
- washing your hands after touching infected nails
- drying your feet well after showering, especially between your toes
- getting manicures or pedicures from trustworthy salons
- avoiding being barefoot in public places
- reducing your use of artificial nails and nail polish
Products to help you avoid nail fungus
If youre prone to excessive moisture around your fingernails or toenails, consider buying:
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Causes Of Nail Fungus
With fungal nail infections, the main cause is typically
Certain behaviors and preexisting conditions that can affect your risk of nail fungus include:
- old age
There are many overlaps between nail fungus and nail cancer. Since its easy to mistake cancer of the nail for a fungal infection, you should see a doctor immediately to get a definitive diagnosis.
See a doctor immediately if you suspect you have toenail fungus or subungual melanoma.
Since the prognosis of subungual melanoma gets worse the longer it takes to diagnose, its better to be safe and get any possible symptoms checked out and cleared as soon as they appear.
Fungal infections are not considered life-threatening, but the 5-year survival rate for subungual melanoma can vary dramatically depending on how early the cancer is identified. According to the Canada Dermatology Association, chances of recovery can range anywhere from 16 to 80 percent .
If you wait too long for diagnosis and treatment, theres a risk of the cancer spreading throughout the bodys organs and lymph nodes.
How Aggressive Is Subungual Melanoma
The key points to remember for subungual melanoma are: It has the same histopathological process as cutaneous malignant melanoma. Some studies suggest it is more aggressive than cutaneous malignant melanoma, but this is likely due to late presentation. It should be diagnosed using excision or an incision biopsy.
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Who Gets Toenail Fungus
Men are more likely to get it than women. The older you are, the better your chances are, too. People who have diabetes, athlete’s foot, or a weak immune system, who smoke, or whose family members have it are also at a higher risk. If you spend a lot of time in the water or you’ve injured your toenail, your odds for getting toenail fungus go up.
What Is The Outcome For Someone Who Has Nail Fungus
With treatment, many people can get rid of nail fungus. Even when the fungus clears, your nail may look unhealthy until the infected nail grows out. A fingernail grows out in 4 to 6 months and a toenail in 12 to 18 months.
To clear the fungus, its important to:
Use the treatment exactly as prescribed
Apply the medicine for as long as prescribed
Keep all follow-up appointments with your dermatologist
Nail fungus can be stubborn. If you had a severe infection, its possible to clear the infection. A healthy looking nail, however, may be unrealistic, but you can expect the nail to look better and feel more comfortable.
Even with clearing, nail fungus can return. Youll find steps to reduce your risk in Tips: 12 ways to prevent another nail infection.
ReferenceGold LFS and Rosen T. Onychomycosis: Diagnosis, treatment, and prevention strategies. Dermatology News . March 2016:2-15.
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How To Know If You Have Nail Fungus
This article was medically reviewed by Luba Lee, FNP-BC, MS. Luba Lee, FNP-BC is a board certified Family Nurse Practitioner and educator in Tennessee with over a decade of clinical experience. Luba has certifications in Pediatric Advanced Life Support , Emergency Medicine, Advanced Cardiac Life Support , Team Building, and Critical Care Nursing. She received her Master of Science in Nursing from the University of Tennessee in 2006.There are 8 references cited in this article, which can be found at the bottom of the page. This article has been viewed 177,535 times.
Nail fungus, also known as onychomycosis or tinea unguium, is a common condition that can affect either the finger or toenails, though it is more likely to infect toenails.XTrustworthy SourceMayo ClinicEducational website from one of the world’s leading hospitalsGo to source It often begins as a white or yellow spot under your nail and can cause serious damage to the nail or other infections if left untreated.XTrustworthy SourceMayo ClinicEducational website from one of the world’s leading hospitalsGo to source By identifying the signs and symptoms and treating the condition, you can not only know if you have nail fungus, but also get rid of this potentially unsightly condition.
How Do You Know When Nail Fungus Is Gone
fungal nail infectionnailnailinfected nailnail
You may have nail fungus if one or more of your nails are:
Also Know, how do you know if toenail fungus is working? Nail fungus can be resistant to treatment and nails take a long time to grow out, so it can take several weeks or months for an infection to be fully resolved. You will know that the treatment is working and the infection is clearing up when you see growth of a new, healthy nail from the base of the nail bed.
Similarly, you may ask, how long does it take for nail fungus to go away?
Oral antifungal drugs.These drugs help a new nail grow free of infection, slowly replacing the infected part. You typically take this type of drug for six to 12 weeks. But you won’t see the end result of treatment until the nail grows back completely. It may take four months or longer to eliminate an infection.
Can you scrape out toenail fungus?
Treatment usually begins with your dermatologist trimming your infected nail, cutting back each infected nail to the place where it attaches to your finger or toe. Your dermatologist may also scrape away debris under the nail. This helps get rid of some fungus.
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Orthopedic Doctors For Foot Care
Many people dont realize just how vital proper foot care really is until they have an infection thats difficult to treat. The medical professionals at the Colorado Center of Orthopaedic Excellence realize how important caring for each and every part of the body is to maintaining the body in top condition.
We are an Official Orthopaedic Medicine Provider of the Olympics as an Olympic Training Center. We achieved this designation because our team is specially trained in treating sports injuries, including issues involving the feet, muscles, and joints.
Our team offers top-notch medical care and state-of-the-art techniques and technologies diagnosing and treating professional athletes and amateurs alike right here in Colorado Springs.
Call us today at to schedule an appointment, or fill out our simple online appointment request form. We look forward to helping you get back on your feet again!
Treatment Options For Nail Fungus And Nail Psoriasis
There are treatments for both nail fungus and nail psoriasis. Nail fungus is usually treated with medication. Patients may be given topical medication that is applied directly to the nail.2
These are available as creams and polishes and may be used in conjunction with other treatments. Nail fungus patients may also be prescribed an oral antifungal medication.2 Oral medications are usually given for 12 weeks to 6 months. They can be used with or without topical treatments.
Nail psoriasis can be treated with topical corticosteroids.1 Some patients have had success with corticosteroid injections under the nail since it is difficult for topical medications to get through the nail into the nail bed.3
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Toenail Fungus Common Questions
If youre dealing with toenail fungus, the first thing you need to know is that you are not alone. Many people struggle with toenail fungus and have a lot of questions. How did the infection start? Can I treat the fungal infection at home? What kind of doctor should I see for toenail fungus? Does laser nail fungus removal work?
Symptoms of a fungal toenail infection
Although toenail fungus is relatively common, it isnt unusual for people to keep their condition to themselves. Up to a point, its okay to ignore some thickening or discoloration. However, if the condition gets worse, you may begin to experience pain or unpleasant smells. The most common symptoms of an infection include:
- Thickening nails and distortion in shape
- Changes in color until nails are white, yellow, or brownish
- Nails begin to break and crumble
- The nail becomes detached from the toe
- An appearance of dark debris under the nails
- A slightly foul smell
If youve started to notice that nails are becoming warped or break easily, pay attention to whether you have any other related symptoms. Of course, catching an infection early is the best way to prevent further discomfort.
Causes of fungal infections
Toenail fungus treatment options
Why Vicks For Toenail Fungus
Now that we know how someone could get toenail fungus, lets talk a possible treatment: Vicks Vapor Rub. What is it about this cough and cold medicine that helps with infected toenails? Good question.
One of the ingredients in Vicks is thyme oil and it has been shown to remove fungus from underneath toenails.
In the January-February 2011 issue of the Journal of the American Board of Family Medicine, a study was printed in which eighteen people who were dealing with toenail fungus applied Vicks to the affected area.
Five of the participants were cured, ten saw their symptoms improve, and three participants experienced no changes at all.
Of the five people who were cured, only two kinds of fungus were identified Trichophyton mentagrophytes and Candida parapsilosis. This suggests that the treatments effectiveness may depend on the type of fungus that someone has on their toe.
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How To Treat Nail Fungus And Why You Always Should
Aside from the pain and discomfort, its crucial to treat nail fungus because it can spread and cause permanent damage to your toenail beds. Plus, it is more difficult to treat when it advances, and it does not just go away on its own.
For those with diabetes or a weakened immune system, nail fungus can increase the risk of an infection of the surrounding skin.
Treatments include medicated nail polish, topical antifungal creams, and oral medications. At Town Center Foot & Ankle, podiatrist Dr. Stephen G. Eichelsdorfer offers an effective high tech treatment to get rid of toenail fungus and prevent it from returning. He uses PinPointe FootLaser system to destroy the fungus on the affected toe as well as the surrounding toes.
This method enables Dr. Eichelsdorfer to destroy fungus that is present on neighboring toes but has not caused symptoms yet. This way you destroy all the nail fungus at once to prevent a recurrence. Recurrences are fairly common.
For more information on how to prevent, diagnose, and treat toenail fungus, call Town Center Foot & Ankle with offices in Kingwood and Atascocita, Texas, or make an appointment online.
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Diagnosing And Treating Toenail Changes
If you notice changes in the appearance of your toenails, see a doctor promptly. If a fungal infection is suspected, a sample of the nail can be taken and analyzed by a lab to make a diagnosis. If the test comes back positive, an oral or topical antifungal medication may be prescribed to treat the fungus. Most antifungal medications are effective against most forms of toenail fungus, although treatment can take some time, in part because its hard to deliver any type of medication through the nail plate to the skin under the nail.
Most of the time, the treatment requires the whole nail to grow out, which can take up to a year, says Sheth. Treatment needs to be consistent and long-term if it has any chance of working.
If the test comes back negative for fungus, your doctor may begin investigating other causes for the abnormal appearance of your toenails. Sometimes symptoms involving other parts of the body help point to a diagnosis.
People with yellow nail syndrome, for example, may experience leg swelling or breathing problems. Those with alopecia could see their hair begin to fall out.
And, according to Goad, With psoriasis, patches of red, scaly skin may be seen on the knees, elbows, and face, too. Its usually not limited to just the toenails.
Additional reporting by Susan Jara
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Nail Color And Structure Changes
Keratin is a protein that promotes the development of the skin and nails. Nail psoriasis sometimes causes too much keratin to grow under the nail. This overgrowth is called subungual hyperkeratosis.
People with hyperkeratosis may notice a white, chalky substance under the nail. When this occurs in the toenails, the pressure of shoes pushing down on the nails might cause pain.
How To Diagnose Toenail Fungus
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This infection commonly starts at the edge of the nail and spreads to the middle, making it brownish or yellowish, brittle and thick.
In severe cases, the nail may also lift off from the nail bed.
People who frequently go to swimming pools, saunas, and communal showers are more susceptible to toenail fungus.
Most people who are infected do not detect it right away until the condition becomes severe. Fungal nail infection is not considered to be a serious health problem unless another medical issue is present.
But, how do you know if you have toenail fungus?
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What Are The Treatments For Toenail Fungus
Toenail fungus is notoriously hard to cure. If over-the-counter fungal treatments have not worked, see your doctor. Treatment will depend on how severe the infection is and the specific type of fungi causing it.
Your doctor may start by trimming your nail, removing debris from under the nail, and scaling away the dead nail layers. Then, treatment may involve the following:
- Topical toenail fungus medication in the form of medicated nail polish or cream you apply to the nail. Some products are for daily use and others are once weekly. Treatment can take up to 18 months and is only suitable for mild infections. Thinning the nail with a file before application may be necessary to help the medicine penetrate the nail. Always sterilize nail tools after use. Topical medicines include amorolfine , ciclopirox , efinaconazole , and tavaborole .
- Oral antifungal drugs you take by mouth include fluconazole , griseofulvin , itraconazole , and terbinafine . These drugs have a higher cure rate and work more quickly than topical products. Treatment generally takes up to 12 weeks. However, they carry a risk of liver toxicity, side effects, and drug interactions. You will need blood tests and frequent monitoring if your doctor prescribes these medications.
- Combination therapy can be more effective than either topical or oral drugs alone.
Is It Toenail Fungus Or Something Else
Odd-looking toenail? It may be a fungal infection, but there’s a good chance that another condition could be to blame.
If you notice an odd spot on your toenail, you might assume its a fungal infection. However, theres a good chance that its not.
Spots or discolorations on or under a toenail could be bruises resulting from trauma to the nail, blood blisters, warts, or even subungual melanoma, a type of skin cancer, says Ami Sheth, a doctor of podiatric medicine in Los Gatos, California, and a spokesperson for the American Podiatric Medical Association.
Since nail irregularities can be caused by diseases besides these as well, its best to get it looked at, says Dr. Sheth.
Richard Goad, a doctor of podiatric medicine at Baylor Scott & White Health in Waco, Texas, concurs. Sometimes the nail will be the first place to show another underlying problem, Dr. Goad says.
So is it a fungus, a false alarm, or another condition entirely?
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Causes Of Toenail Fungus
Your toenails are frequently being exposed to the pathogen that causes fungal infections.
In fact, fungus and bacteria can be found almost anywhere, from public pools and locker rooms to the inside of your own shoes warm, damp, and dark places are the perfect environment for fungus to thrive. And when it finds a home in which to fester, the fungus begins to damage the keratin in the nail and, in severe cases, even cause debilitating pain.
However, fungal toenails can also develop in other ways in some cases, the fungus is contracted after an initial injury to the nail bed. Something as simple as a stubbed toe or an ingrown toenail can make the area more susceptible to the development of this condition.
In other cases, toenail fungus is the result of other underlying conditions that may contribute to a person developing infections in general. A good example of this is diabetes if you are living with diabetes, then you are already at a higher risk of infection, so when fungi comes into the picture, it is likely to take hold of the nail quite quickly.