You’ve probably been ignoring them or covering them up with bright nail polish, but those embarrassing toenails could have a problem that’s difficult to treat, and the sooner you get started the better! If your nails have yellow or white streaks or dark patches in them, or if they are thick, ragged or crumbly, chances are you’ve picked up a toenail fungus that is wreaking havoc under your nail. Don’t worry, it’s not a life-threatening condition, but don’t delay either, because this pesky problem won’t go away on its own.
Fungi: The Insidious Invaders
Such a small thing to cause such problems! Microscopic fungi live all over, but are especially at home in warm and damp public places like pools, showers, and saunas. You just need one tiny break in the skin of your toe for them to move in and take over. They nestle under your nail bed and start feeding on the tissue, accumulating debris under the nail that can discolor it and let off a surprisingly bad odor. As they continue to grow, more of your nail is infected, and it can spread to neighboring nails as well, and even to other parts of the body.
Some people have no trouble fighting off these invaders, but those with diabetes, AIDS, or other autoimmune diseases have a harder time. If this describes you, infections like these can quickly lead to more serious problems, so a visit to your doctor as soon as you notice a white or yellow spot on your toenails is crucial to maintaining your foot health.
Divide and Conquer
This age-old battle strategy can work for toenail fungus, too. To begin with, you need to “divide” your toes from the fungi. If you use public gyms or pools, wear protection on your feet—flip flops or shower shoes—to keep from contacting the source of the infection. Clean and dry your feet thoroughly after being in such an environment.
Divide your toes from the dark, moist warmth of your shoes, too, by taking them off when you can and airing out your feet. Wear socks made of fabric that pulls moisture away from your skin, and change them frequently if you perspire a lot. Having at least two pairs of shoes that you can alternate and let dry out completely between wearing is also a good strategy. The goal is to prevent this infection from taking hold in the first place.
Conquering the fungus once it has started growing is a little more difficult. There are topical medications to apply, but they don’t often reach under the nail to where the problem lies. Oral medications do a better job at that, but they have some risks and require you to test liver and kidney function for many months to make sure they have not been damaged.
At Atlantic Foot & Ankle Associates, we recommend using laser treatment for toenail fungus. It is quick and virtually painless, and has no known side effects. Learn more about it on our Laser Therapy page, or request our book No More Ugly Toenails. With offices in five communities along Florida’s Atlantic coast, help for your fungal nails is at hand. Call today! Daytona Beach: (386) 274-3336, Port Orange: (386) 788-6333, Palm Coast: (386) 586-7373, Orange City: (386) 775-2281, and Ormond Beach: (386) 673-2266.