How to Know You Have a Fungal Toenail (Before it Gets Worse!)

You know how this goes in the movies: The character enters the room, eyes focused on some other item or another. As they approach it, you can see the killer in the background, behind them. Slowly, they creep up behind the victim, who obviously… continues to stare straight ahead. Turn around! your instincts cry. You just have to SEE them before it’s too la–

(Thud.)

Well, you knew that was going to happen.

A fungal toenail infection is a creeping terror too, but in a different way. Fungal toenails usually aren’t very dangerous to humans, but they can become very unsightly. In some case, growth beneath the nail can become so severe as to cause discomfort and pain.

An infection can be contagious, too. Explaining to your loved one how they ended up with brittle, crumbling, discolored nails might be the most frightening aspect of all!

Toenail fungus can be a very stubborn problem to take care of, so time is definitely of the essence. The sooner an infection is discovered and treatment on it is started, the faster and more effectively it is likely to be eradicated.

In most cases, though, the early signs of a fungal nail infection tend to be overlooked or, worse, ignored. It isn’t until things get bad that a patient might come in to see us, and by then the fungus has gotten a good head start establishing its home deep within the nail.

It’s not always easy to see the initial signs of fungus creeping up on you, but wouldn’t you rather get the drop on it first? Here’s what to look for when you want to catch toenail fungus early, as well as a bit of advice on what to do about it.

How to know if you have a fungal toenail (before it gets worse!)

Seeing Spots

One of the most common sights in the early stages of a fungal infection is spots or streaks visible within the nail. These blemishes are usually white in color, but in some cases might appear dark. They also tend to show up around the tip of the nail.

It can be very easy to confuse these marks with scratches or minor injuries (the dark spots might be seen as dried blood beneath the nail, for example). In this case, you might want to ask yourself two questions:

  • Do I remember having any recent stubs or run-ins with my toes? (Those coffee table legs are notorious as long as we’re talking about scary villains.)
  • Am I feeling any pain right now, or felt any pain within my toenail the past couple days?
  • Do I feel any pain or discomfort if I press on the nail?

If the answer to these questions is “no,” it should make you more suspicious that a fungal infection may be brewing. If you see no change in your nails after several days, or if the blemishes appear to be spreading, give our office a call.

Given more time, the nail may begin to look yellow or brown as well, covering up more of its surface area. The nail may begin to feel dry, soft, and/or powdery. Splitting or crumbling may also happen.

Once you are in the above territory, however, treatment becomes more challenging. Spots and streaks are definitely the time to have things checked out.

And by the way, you might find other abnormalities in your nails: lines, ridges, and other strange types of discoloration. If there’s ever anything you have questions about, please don’t hesitate to give us a call about these, either.

What Do We Do Now?

So let’s say you come to us for a suspected fungal nail infection. What then?

We will of course examine your nails to get a closer look at what is going on. In some cases, we might take a scraping and have it tested to confirm whether a fungus is really at play.

If we have a confirmed infection, then it’s time to move on to treatment. Different forms of treatment might be recommended based on the state of the infection.

In some cases, a topical medicine might be prescribed. This is usually most effective in very early cases, when the fungus has not infiltrated the nail deeply.

However, our office also provides advanced treatment in the form of the Noveon NaiLaser. This device uses specific wavelengths of light energy to penetrate a nail and destroy fungus without causing damage to the surrounding healthy tissue.

A laser treatment session takes less than 30 minutes, does not cause pain, and is not going to require anyone to drive you home afterward. The number of sessions needed may depend on the progress of the infection, but results begin to appear within a few weeks.

Regardless of how severe a fungal infection is, treatment is not going to automatically clear up the sight of the nail. While the fungus may be dead, the infected portion of the nail must still grow out and be replaced with new, uninfected nail tissue.

Let’s Clear Things Up

Whether caught early or having had time to loom over your nails, don’t let a fungal infection stalk you any further!

Drs. Todd Stevens and Danny Gomez are here to diagnose any skin and nail problems you might be facing and provide expert insight into the best ways they can be treated. We handle other aches, pains, and injuries, too!

Schedule an appointment with us by calling our Princeton office at (609) 924-8333 or our Roselle Park office at (908) 687-5757. You can also fill out our online contact form anytime and a member of our staff will reach out to you.