Toenail fungus is an unsightly and embarrassing infection that is contagious and often difficult to get rid of. And while some of you may have a mild case and barely even notice the fungal growth at all, others actually suffer from intense pain as their infection grows and spreads.
When patients visit our office looking to relieve pain caused by toenail fungus, they are usually finally doing something about the infection after months – or even years! – of ignoring the condition and allowing it to thrive.
Waiting to seek treatment – they soon find – is a huge mistake!
Whenever you have an infection, you shouldn’t wait to seek medical care – the sooner you get the care you need, the quicker and more effective treatments will be.
It’s like the old saying goes, “the early bird gets the worm.” And this is true when it comes to toenail fungus – looking for symptoms of this pesky condition before they become a problem will help you make the most of treatment opportunities and minimize complications.
The bottom line is that the more you allow fungus to grow and spread under your nail, the more difficult it will be to actually get rid of it. So staying aware of symptoms and catching them early can really make a huge difference for your recovery.
And of course, if you want to catch it early, you need to know what to exactly look for – that’s why we are here!
So let’s get down to business and talk a little more about what causes fungal nails, its symptoms, and how you can prevent it from happening in the first place.
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.
Symptoms of Fungal Nails
The good news is that if you catch it early enough, it can be fairly easy to eradicate toenail fungus and save your nails from further damage.
So how do you catch it in the early stages?
Well, inspecting your nails every day is the first step. Especially because toenail fungus can be present a very long time without causing noticeable symptoms.
Here are things you should look for when you examine your nails:
- Darkening or discoloration of the affected nail
- White or discolored spots that aren’t from an injury
- Thickening or distortion of the nail
- Unusual white or yellow streaks in your nail
- Crumbling along the edges or tips of the nail, particularly where it’s discolored
- Redness and swelling
- Foul odor emitting from the nail
- Pain when walking or wearing shoes
- The nail starts to separate from the nail bed
If you notice one or more of these symptoms in your toenails, don’t wait for them to go away on their own – the infection will most likely continue to grow and spread (including to other areas of your body, like your groin – which is the condition known as jock itch).
Instead, get them diagnosed right away so the fungus can be eliminated quickly and before it causes visible damage to your nail.
Treating Toenail Fungus
If the infection is mild and you catch it early, a daily cleansing routine combined with nail filing and a liquid antifungal medication may help to keep the infection at bay.
However, fungal infections are fairly resilient and will often return. If over-the-counter antifungal agents are not strong enough to effectively manage the infection (or if the nail starts suffering from side effects), come visit our office to talk about which prescription option would work best for your case. Both topical and oral medications are available.
In some cases, removal of part (or all) of the nail is required. This approach helps to accomplish several goals. First, diseased nail tissue can be removed. Second, debris underneath the nail will be cleaned out. And lastly, topical antifungal medication can then be applied directly to the affected nail bed – for optimal effectiveness.
But whatever you do, never attempt to perform “bathroom surgery.” Those who try to remove the affected nail on their own at home usually make the condition worse or end up damaging healthy tissue in the process.
Instead, make an appointment as soon as possible with one of our foot and ankle experts here at Associates in Podiatry. We will identify the root cause of the infection and then provide the best approach for you.
Contact Us Today!
Remember – the sooner the pathogen is destroyed, the sooner your nails can heal and avoid greater, more serious damage. So contact one of our New Jersey offices for an appointment today. We have a number of different options to deploy when attacking fungal infections, among them the Lunula laser, a cold, painless laser for quickly treating fungal toenails. We’re proud to be one of the few healthcare providers in the state of New Jersey with this innovative treatment. Call:
- Our Princeton office at (609) 924-8333
- Or our Roselle Park office at (908) 687-5757
You can also fill out our handy request form online and one of our staff members will contact you to confirm your appointment.