You may not fully realize how important healthy and clear toenails are until you notice they’ve been damaged by an unwelcome fungal infection.
When they grow straight and smooth, healthy nails protect the ends of your toes from injury. But if a fungal infection gets underneath and starts to discolor and damage the nail, the result is not only unsightly, but often both physically and emotionally uncomfortable.
Fortunately, there is a solution! While toenail fungus can grow indefinitely if you don’t seek treatment, PinPointe laser therapy is a safe, painless, and convenient option that can restore the health and appearance of your nails. Learn more about laser therapy here.
What Is Toenail Fungus
Nail fungus is an infection under the hard keratin tissue that slowly damages your nails. The medical term is onychomycosis, and this infection is caused by microscopic fungi that thrive in warm, damp environments, especially those without much air circulation.
As the pathogen gets under your nails through small cuts or separations between the nail bed and the hard tissue, it multiplies and spreads rapidly. It begins to break down your toenails, causing thickening, brittleness, discoloration, and cracking. Sometimes the affected toe emits a foul odor and debris collects under the hard tissue. The changes in nail shape can make it uncomfortable to wear shoes.
Nail fungus doesn’t improve without treatment. In fact, it typically gets worse and causes complications if allowed to fester. Nail damage opens your toes to bacterial infections as well, which is a particularly serious risk for people with diabetes or other conditions that impair the immune system.
How Did I Get Nail Fungus?
The fungi do not need a wide opening to cause an infection. Cracks in the nails or skin, or a small gap between the nail and nail bed, are more than sufficient.
You may have been exposed to fungus in the environment, and then—if your toes are sweaty and warm—the infection takes hold. Public pools, locker rooms, saunas, gyms, and bathrooms are all prime breeding grounds for fungus.
The infection is contagious, so it can easily pass from one toe to another, to the floors and footwear around you, and even to other people. Walking barefoot in high-risk areas, sharing footwear with an infected person, or touching the feet of someone with the fungus all sharply increase your chances of developing the condition.
The same kinds of fungi that cause athlete’s foot also cause fungal toenails. If you have a history of athlete’s foot, the fungus may have transferred from your skin to your nails via your shoes and socks.
Get Your Free Guide to Understanding Fungal Toenails
Are you suffering from fungal toenails? We are providing this information to you and others in our community who suffer from fungal toenail infections because we believe that the more you know about the causes of nail infections and the ways we are able to treat this condition, the better prepared you will be to make the best possible decisions about your health.
Fungal Toenail Treatment Options
Prompt treatment is key for successfully restoring your nails. Ideally, you should have the nail fungus identified and addressed as soon as you notice any changes in your nail tissue. The more severe the infection becomes, the more difficult it becomes to treat, and the longer you’ll need to wait to see results.
At Sierra Foot & Ankle, Dr. Victoria Melhuish will examine your feet to rule out other possible causes for the nail changes. Our team may scrape some tissue off the surface of your damaged nails for testing to confirm the diagnosis.
There are several ways to address fungal infections: topical medications, oral medicines, laser therapy, or nail removal.
- Topical ointments, lotions, sprays, powders, and lacquers help to eradicate the pathogen on the surface of the skin and nails, as well as in shoes. However, they aren’t very effective for working through to the infection at the source, underneath the nail.
- Oral medications travel through the bloodstream to treat the infected cells in the toes. These are more effective, though they also have a variety of side effects and may not work for everyone.
- Laser therapy eradicates the problem in just a couple of short treatments. Here at Sierra Foot & Ankle, we use the highly accurate and powerful PinPointe laser. The beam of highly focused light passes through the hard tissue – without damaging it – to target the infection below. It vaporizes the pathogen in a painless, noninvasive procedure. This allows your nails to begin re-growing healthy, clear tissue immediately, so your toes are completely restored in just months.
- For more stubborn or reoccurring cases, you may need a procedure that removes the damaged nail. However, this is rarely necessary.
Whether you’ve just noticed a fungal toenail infection or you’ve been living with one for years, we can provide you with effective treatment options to give you the best chance to eliminate your condition. Don’t wait until complications develop or it gets passed to loved ones! Request an appointment or more information from Sierra Foot & Ankle by calling (775) 783-8037 or by filling out the online request form.