It can be disheartening to look down at your bare feet and see yellowed toenails. This is embarrassing and can make you feel self-conscious and reluctant to wear sandals or open-toed shoes in public. We treat many patients for the condition, so we know those are normal feelings when you have case of fungal toenails.
Whereas it is certainly an unpleasant condition, the good news is that there are things we can do at our Medford, OR podiatrist office to help. This fungal infection won’t clear up on its own—and will become worse over time—so make sure to call us and request an appointment with Dr. Evan Merrill and our team at Southern Oregon Foot & Ankle.
Addressing the Problem
When it comes to fungal toenail treatment, it’s important to keep in mind that the sooner you address the condition, the easier it is to treat. The infection can be difficult—but not impossible—to eliminate. The odds are much better if you seek care at the earliest possible stage. This means you should have the condition evaluated as soon as possible after you notice the symptoms (which we’ll discuss shortly).
Our expert staff here at Southern Oregon Foot & Ankle, L.L.C. will start by carefully examining your affected toenails. This may entail scraping a sample of damaged keratin tissue off the tops of your nails to analyze. When we do this, we are looking to confirm if the infection is actually caused by a fungus, and not a different type of microorganism. Once we have concluded that it is a fungal infection, we will discuss your treatment options.
Traditionally, topical and oral medications were the leading forms of fungal toenail treatment. Advances in technology has added a third option – laser therapy. As with all things in life, each option has its respective strengths and weaknesses. We will discuss them together to determine which one(s) will work best for you based on your unique needs and preferences. Depending on your situation, the best course of action might be a combination of some kind.
Topical medications include anti-fungal lotions, ointments, powders, and sprays. There are used to eradicate the infection residing on the surface of your toenail and the surround skin. Some of these products can also be applied to footwear to prevent reinfection from occurring. The downside to topical medicines is that they aren’t able to reach fungus spores festering deep under the nails.
Oral medications travel through your bloodstream and are able to kill the microorganisms underneath the hard nail tissue. This can reach fungi topical medications cannot, but it takes several months and some patients report having side effects. For most people, though, oral medication is an option that works quite well.
Laser therapy uses concentrated, intense light beams to eliminate the fungus at the source, without damaging the surrounding tissue. The laser beam passes through the toenail and targets the infected cells quickly and safely. This allows new, healthy nail tissue to begin re-growing immediately.
How the Fungal Infection Develops and Symptoms to Know
Fungal toenails are an unfortunately common infection. There is a staggering amount of microscopic fungi residing in the environments around all of us. As such, it’s easy to pick them up. If they end up under your nails—and your feet provide a hospitable environment—the organisms begin to grow and multiply. This slowly damages the hard keratin tissue that makes up your nails. Over time, the tissue become thickened, discolored, brittle, ragged, and generally unsightly. Sometimes, the infection can even cause a foul odor as well.
Regarding your feet providing “a hospitable environment,” fungi need warmth and dampness to survive. What they don’t need is sunlight. As such, a warm, sweaty foot encased in socks and shoes creates a desirable location for these microorganisms. Given that our feet contain hundreds of thousand sweat glands, it’s easy to see how this can be such a common problem.
Since the offensive fungus exists naturally in the environment, walking barefoot in public places increases your chances of exposure. As noted, the organisms thrive in warm, damp places, which means pool decks, locker room floors, and showering areas are high-risk locations. Direct contact with infected skin, nails, or footwear of someone else who has the condition can also pass the organism to your own feet.
Fungal toenails is a rather contagious condition – the microorganisms can pass easily to your surround skin, as well as your socks, shoes, towels, sheets, and other surfaces in your home. That means you can pass the infection along to others in your family. You might also end up with a case of tinea pedis (athlete’s foot).
You are more likely to experience complications if the damage to the nail is more severe. Toenails that have become thickened from a fungal infection can be quite uncomfortable and increase your risk for secondary infections from bacteria. This is especially concerning for anyone who has a condition that compromises the immune system, like diabetes.
Contact Us Today!
We know it’s an unpleasant experience to have fungal toenails. The infection damages your nail tissue and makes them both uncomfortable and unsightly. You won’t want to wear sandals or open-toed shoes in nice weather. If you address the problem early, however, there are measures to eliminate the problem before it really sets in and becomes difficult to treat.
If you want clear, healthy toenails, come see our team at Southern Oregon Foot & Ankle. We can evaluate the condition for you and then create a treatment plan. Your fungal toenail care starts when you either give our Medford, OR foot doctor office a call at (541) 776-3338 or fill out our online contact form today!