Looking down and seeing discolored, brown or yellow, brittle toenails can keep you feeling self-conscious, avoiding open toe shoes no matter the weather. When fungus gets under the toenail and begins to grow, it can cause discoloration, thickened or hardened nails, and may even cause the nail to eventually fall off.
However, you don’t have to live with toenail fungus. There are a variety of treatment options available that may help cure your toenail fungus, leaving you with healthier-looking feet.
Because fungi thrive in damp, humid conditions, people often pick up toenail fungus from public showers, locker rooms, and swimming pools. Generally, the elderly and people who have underlying health conditions, such as diabetes or circulatory issues, are more susceptible. With the help of a podiatrist, however, there are steps you can take to treat and cure your toenail fungus.
You’ll want to be sure your doctor knows how long you’ve been suffering from toenail fungus, and if you have gone through any previous treatments. This will help your doctor understand the scope of the problem and any other factors that may influence your treatment options.
Once your doctor has a clear medical history, you will then undergo a physical exam to determine the extent and degree of the fungus.
A complete diagnosis can come only after a comprehensive analysis of the fungus. A small sample will be harvested and sent to a pathology lab. This will help your doctor to determine the best course of treatment for you.
Oral treatments are effective options. They do, however, take about three months to work and can bring unpleasant side effects, including stomach upset, dizziness, skin problems, and potentially liver damage. This is one of the reasons it is so important to share your medical history with your doctor. Because of the strength of oral medications, your doctor may choose an alternative therapy, such as topical treatments.
Topical treatments are applied directly to the infected nail. While these treatments can be effective for many and prove to be a better option, some people will not see any improvement with topical treatment alone, especially if a large part of the nail is infected.
Many podiatrists offer laser treatment. Laser therapy attacks the fungus beneath the nail, without damaging the nail itself. This option works quickly and is noninvasive. The downside of laser treatment is that while it takes care of the aesthetic quality of the nail, there may still be fungus underneath, making it more likely that an infection will return.
If the infection has reached the nail matrix, the area beneath the nail where a new nail is formed, the matrix can be surgically removed. After surgery, however, the nail will not grow back.
Because of the potential side effects of more invasive treatments, some choose to look to home remedies, such as essential oils, plant extracts, and even Vicks Vapor Rub. However, podiatrists caution the use of home remedies when a clear diagnosis and treatment plan is necessary.
If you are suffering from toenail fungus and would like advice about a course of treatment that is right for you, the best thing to do is to visit a foot care specialist to ensure that you get the treatment you need.