Toenail Fungus

A fungus is an organism that thrives in warm moist areas. Toenail fungus (onychomycosis) is a common problem that can affect people of all ages, although it most often affects individuals who are older. Toenail fungus usually begins as an infection in the skin called tinea pedis (also known as athlete’s foot).

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What is Toenail Fungus?

A fungus is an organism that thrives in warm moist areas. Toenail fungus (onychomycosis) is a common problem that can affect people of all ages, although it most often affects individuals who are older. Toenail fungus usually begins as an infection in the skin called tinea pedis (also known as athlete’s foot). The fungus often starts under the nail fold at the end of the nail. Over time, it grows underneath the nail and causes changes to its appearance, such as a yellow or brownish discoloration. It can also cause thickening and deformity of the toenail. Many people have difficulty with their toenails and need assistance in caring for them. Our board-certified podiatrists can diagnose the cause of toenail problems and recommen a treatment option for you.

What Are the Causes of Toenail Fungus?

There are multiple types of fungus that may cause an infection of the toenails. Toenail fungus is most commonly caused by a type of mold known as dermatophytes. Often, toenail fungus begins with an infection of the foot (athlete’s foot), which then spreads to the toenails. Fungi tend to proliferate in warm, moist, dark areas. Infections can be incurred by walking barefoot in a public space such as a shower, locker room, or swimming pool area.

What Are the Signs And Symptoms of Toenail Fungus?

A fungal infection is often marked by thickening or changes in the shape or texture of the toenail. The nail may become brittle or crumbly, or develop ridges or bumps that were not there before. Discoloration is another common symptom, with infected toenails often appearing yellowish or whitish in color, or developing dark spots from the accumulation of debris underneath the nail. Foot odor can also sometimes be caused by a fungal infection.

What Are the Risk Factors of Toenail Fungus?

While toenail fungus can affect people at any age, it is most likely in older adults. You are more likely to get a fungal infection if you have reduced circulation due to diabetes or an autoimmune condition. Your risk is also heightened if your feet sweat a lot, or if you often get athlete’s foot. Sores or wounds on the feet may make you more prone to developing a severe fungal infection.

How is a Toenail Fungus Diagnosed?

A podiatrist can generally identify the presence of a fungal infection through a physical examination of the toenails. In some cases, they may take clippings of the affected nail for further examination in order to determine the precise type of infection in order to help decide the best course of treatment.

What Are Possible Treatments for a Toenail Fungus?

Often our patients are proactive and take over-the-counter (nonprescription) products. However, often those medications do not solve the problem long-term. Even if you find relief from your symptoms, repeat infections are common. That’s why it is imperative to have your condition properly diagnosed by our expert podiatrist who will recommend and prescribe the best treatment for you! Your board-certified podiatrist at Weil Foot & Ankle may suggest a combination of prescription drugs and topical approaches to solve your problem.  They may also recommend the most advanced non-invasive Lunula Laser Treatment for toenail fungus.

Medications For Toenail Fungus

  • Oral antifungal drugs: Your doctor may prescribe an oral antifungal drug. Studies show the most effective oral treatments are found using terbinafine (Lamisil) and itraconazole (Sporanox). These drugs help a new nail grow free of infection, slowly replacing the infected part. You typically take this type of drug for 6 to 12 weeks. Results take over 6 months until the nail grows back completely.  Treatment success rates with these drugs appear to be lower in adults over age 65. Treatment success seems to improve when you combine oral and topical antifungal therapies.
  • Medicated nail polish: Your doctor may prescribe an antifungal nail polish called ciclopirox (Penlac). You paint it on your infected nails and surrounding skin once a day. After seven days, you wipe the piled-on layers clean with alcohol and begin fresh applications. You may need to use this type of nail polish daily for a year.
  • Medicated nail cream: Your doctor may prescribe an antifungal cream, which is rubbed into your infected nails after soaking. These creams may work better if you thin the nails first to allow the medication to get through the hard nail surface to the underlying fungus. To thin nails, apply an over the counter (nonprescription) lotion containing urea. Alternatively, your doctor may thin the surface of the nail (debride) with a file or other tool.
  • Medicated foot baths: One of the latest and most effective treatments is the use of a medicated foot bath – that is, soaking your foot in medicated water each night. The bath saturates the nail, making certain the medication gets to all locations around and below the nail. Prior to starting the medication, your Doctor will take a culture to identify the exact organism causing the infection so it can be treated most effectively.

Lunula Laser Treatment

At Weil Foot & Ankle Institute, we understand that many of our patients come through our doors experiencing discomfort due to toenail fungus. We are dedicated to providing our patients with the industry’s leading and highest quality treatment options: in this case, the Lunula Laser. The Erchonia Lunula laser device is a Low-Level Laser Light that is specifically designed for treating toenail fungus. To find out more about this treatment, please visit this page.

Are There Preventative Steps or Measures to Avoid Toenail Fungus?

Proper foot hygiene is an important component of preventing fungal infections from taking place. Wash your feet regularly with soap and water, drying thoroughly afterward. You can minimize potential contact with fungi and bacteria by keeping your shower and toenail clippers clean and by wearing flip flops in communal showers, pool areas, and similar public spaces. You should also wear appropriate, well-fitted footwear in order to avoid blisters and other foot injuries.

What Are the Risks If Toenail Fungus Is Left Untreated?

Toenail fungus can be unsightly and embarrassing but is not often harmful for most people. You should contact a board-certified podiatrist if you have diabetes or another condition that negatively affects circulation to your lower extremities. You should also reach out if an infection is causing redness or pain. In some cases, toenail fungus can lead to secondary infections that pose a threat to your overall health.

Are There Other Related Toenail Conditions to Toenail Fungus?

Toenail fungus is of greater concern if you have diabetes, poor circulation, or another condition which inhibits your body’s ability to fight infection.

Key Takeaways About a Toenail Fungus (Top 3-5 points to remember from everything)

Your toenails can become infected by multiple types of fungus, the most common being dermatophytes. While toenail fungus can affect people of any age, older people and people with poor circulation to the lower extremities are more prone to infections. Proper foot hygiene is crucial to preventing toenail fungus, as is being aware of which public spaces are most likely to breed fungus and bacteria. Toenail fungus is not usually dangerous but can be difficult to treat.

The expert podiatrists at Weil Foot & Ankle Institute can help treat this issue using a combination of oral medication, medicated topical solutions, and Lunula Laser treatments.

If you have toenail fungus that has not responded to over the counter treatment, Weil Foot & Ankle Institute is here to help. Contact our office to schedule your next appointment today. We look forward to working with you to get you back to feeling (and looking) your best.

Meet Weil Foot & Ankle Institute

Weil Foot & Ankle Institute was founded in 1965, by Dr. Lowell Weil Sr, who was inspired by a need to progress the Foot & Ankle Care category into the future through innovation. As one of the first Doctors of Podiatric Medicine (DPM), Dr. Weil…

By: Weil Foot & Ankle Institute, Published: May 20th, 2022
Review By: Lowell Weil Jr., DPM – Jan 19th, 2023