What is Toenail Fungus?
An estimated 35 million Americans have onychomycosis or fungal infection of the toenail. Toenail fungus causes toenails to turn embarrassingly yellow and crumbly from fungi that squeeze under them and then hide out. If left untreated, the fungi dig in deeper and may spread to other toenails causing them to thicken and become even more unsightly.
What Causes Toenail Fungus?
A fungal infection of the toenail usually occurs due to small cuts in the skin or a small separation in the toenail and the nail bed. Once present in a toenail, the infection can spread quickly because feet are usually kept in the dark, warm, moist environment of shoes, where fungi can thrive. Toenail can also thrive from prolonged exposure to other warm, moist environments such as swimming pools or showers.
While some people are genetically prone to toenail fungus, others, (especially swimmers and athletes) unintentionally leave themselves open to this infection because of certain behavioral patterns such as going barefoot in public showers or gyms. Athletes may also be at are at greater risk for fungal infection of the nails simply because their feet are often damp, making them the perfect environment for fungi to live.
Toenail Fungus Symptoms and Onychomycosis Treatment
This is a very common problem and unfortunately only about 20% of people infected seek professional care from a physician. Toenail fungus has not only been associated with pain, difficulty walking and difficulty wearing shoes. But also with emotional issues such as, embarrassment, low self-esteem, and avoiding social interaction.
Treatment for onychomycosis can be achieved through topical creams, oral medications, or laser toenail fungus treatments. Often times a combination of all three methods are used.
Topical treatments are simple remedies. However they must be applied daily for 8 to 10 months and studies have shown that some have a low effective rate. Oral medications are taken daily for three months and are more effective than topical treatments, but studies have shown recurrence rates to be as high as 35%. And laser fungus toenail treatments have been clinically proven to be 77% to 90% effective with 5 mm of new clear nail growth.
When visiting one of our physicians at American Foot & Leg Specialists, our doctors will review oral, topical, and laser treatment options in terms of risk and benefits specific to every patient. From there, our physicians will devise a treatment protocol that will best fit the patient’s needs, allowing them to wear sandals or walk on the beach without embarrassment.