What Is Toe Nail Fungus?
Toe nail fungus, also known as onychomycosis, is the most common nail disease. In fact, nearly 50 percent of abnormalities of the nail is caused by this fungus. Nearly 8 percent of the adult population in the United States has nail fungus, with toe nail fungus being more common than fingernail fungus.
Can You Get Fungal Infection on Your Toenails?
Men tend to this infection more often than women and the elderly too are more prone to it compared to the young. However, you are at a risk of getting a toenail fungal infection if you have one or more of the following:
- Reduced blood circulation
- You perspire a lot on your feet
- There is a family history of fungal infection
- Slow growth of toenails
- Work in moist or humid conditions
- Wear tight-fitting, closed shoes with socks constantly
- Walk barefoot in public areas, such as swimming pools, communal shower rooms and gyms
- Have a weak immune system
- Have diabetes or blood circulation problem
- Have injured your toenail previously
What Causes Toenail Fungus?
As the name suggests, this infection is caused by fungus. In fact, it is a group of fungus known as dermatophytes that find their way into your nail bed via tiny cuts between the nail and nail bed. These fungi thrive in moist, warm environment. This is the same group of fungi that cause athlete’s foot, the fungal infection between the toes.
It is because of the location of the infection, it is quite tough to treat toe nail fungus. That is why topical antifungal creams and ointments are usually ineffective in eradicating the infection.
Symptoms of Toe Nail Fungus Infection
Initially, when you get the infection, there will be no symptoms. However, as the infection progresses, you will notice the following:
- Thickened nails
- Brittle and crumbly toenails
- Yellow, black or brown discoloration of the toenails
- Ragged and distorted appearance of the nails
When the infection is severe, it could lead to separation of the toenail from the nail bed. Also, wearing shoes can lead to pain and discomfort, making it tough to walk, stand and exercise. Furthermore, wearing closed shoes that don’t allow your feet to breathe will cause the infection to worsen. You also may experience pain or get a slightly foul odor from your feet due to the infection.
Typically, people visit doctors because they are concerned about the appearance of their toenails. The doctor will evaluate your toenail carefully before taking a few scrapings from underneath of your nail. These scrapings will be cultured for fungi or be subjected to potassium hydroxide (KOH) smear test. The latter can be done quickly, while the former takes a few weeks to give the right results.
Once the diagnosis is confirmed, the doctor will prescribe a further course of treatment to kill the fungus and prevent recurrence.
How to Treat Toenail Fungus Infection
Toe nail fungus can be pesky to treat because of the location of the infection. However, if topical creams and ointments, home remedies and oral antifungals do not get rid of the infection, you can turn to laser treatment. This modern and innovative treatment offers quick results and reduces the rate of recurrence. It is nearly pain-free and can kill the fungus without causing any damage to your skin or nail. It is a non-invasive treatment that is extremely effective against fungal infection of toenails.