Fungal infection of the nail, or onychomycosis, is often ignored because the infection can be present for years without causing any pain. The disease is characterized by a progressive change in a toenail's quality and color, which is often ugly and embarrassing.
In reality, the condition is an infection underneath the surface of the nail caused by fungi. It's typically caused by a fungus that belongs to a group of fungi called dermatophy, a microorganism that lives in warm, moist environments. Unfortunately, the fungi are all around us — in showers, gyms, nail spas and swimming pools — and everyone is susceptible. The dermatophytes easily attack the nail, thriving off keratin, the nail's protein substance. It causes the nail to become yellow or discolored, thick, brittle and ragged, and it can even cause your nail to separate from the underlying skin.
Because it is difficult to avoid contact with microscopic organisms like fungi, the toenails are especially vulnerable around damp areas where people are likely to be walking barefoot, such as swimming pools, locker rooms, and showers, for example. Injury to the nail bed may make it more susceptible to all types of infection, including fungal infection. Those who suffer from chronic diseases, such as diabetes, circulatory problems, or immune-deficiency conditions, are especially prone to fungal nails. Other contributing factors may be a history of athlete's foot and excessive perspiration.
- Proper hygiene and regular inspection of the feet and toes are the first lines of defense against fungal nails.
- Clean and dry feet resist disease.
- Washing the feet with soap and water, remembering to dry thoroughly, is the best way to prevent an infection.
- Shower shoes should be worn when possible in public areas.
- Shoes, socks, or hosiery should be changed more than once daily.
- Toenails should be clipped straight across so that the nail does not extend beyond the tip of the toe.
- Wear shoes that fit well and are made of materials that breathe.
- Avoid wearing excessively tight hosiery, which promote moisture.
- Socks made of synthetic fiber tend to "wick" away moisture faster than cotton or wool socks.
- Disinfect instruments used to cut nails.
- Disinfect home pedicure tools.
- Don't apply polish to nails suspected of infection — those that are red, discolored, or swollen, for example.
Treatment of Fungal Nails
Treatments may vary, depending on the nature and severity of the infection. Even the best over-the-counter treatments may not prevent a fungal infection from coming back.
A podiatric physician can detect a fungal infection early, culture the nail, determine the cause, and form a suitable treatment plan, which may include prescribing topical or oral medication, laser treatment and/or debridement (removal of diseased nail matter and debris) of an infected nail.
Foot Healers' new laser treatment for toenail fungus has a number of advantages over other laser treatments:
- FDA-approved for the treatment of toenail fungus.
- Treatment is FAST — the process generally takes about 20 minutes.
- Tiny pulses of light from the GenesisPlus laser pass through the toenail to the fungus underneath. The fungus is irradiated without any damage to the surrounding nail or skin — no pain or cutting!
- As your nail grows out after treatment, the new nail growth should be clear. So, it may take 6-12 months for your toenail to clear.
The best part? The price is well below other laser treatments in the St. Louis area — a one-time payment of $299, which covers initial and follow-up laser treatments for 12 months*.
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 that has not responded to any other treatment permits the fungal infection to be cured and prevents the return of a deformed nail.
Trying to solve the infection without the qualified help of a podiatric physician can lead to more problems. With new technical advances in combination with simple preventive measures, the treatment of this lightly regarded health problem can often be successful. Call a Foot Healers Podiatrist today for more information on treatment for toenail fungus.
*Does not include initial consultation, lab fees, or post-treatment office follow-up visits.
Information collected from the American Podiatric Medical Association, Inc