Toenail fungus is an unsightly and embarrassing infection that is contagious and often difficult to get rid of. And while some of you may have a mild case and barely even notice the fungal growth at all, others actually suffer from intense pain as the infection grows and spreads.
When patients visit our office looking to relieve pain caused by fungal nails, they are usually finally doing something about the infection after months – or even years! – of ignoring the condition and allowing it to thrive.
Ignoring the problem – they soon find – was a huge mistake!
Whenever you have an infection, you shouldn’t wait to seek medical treatment – the sooner you get the care you need, the quicker and more effective treatments will be. On the other hand, the longer you allow fungus to grow and spread under your nail, the more difficult it will be to actually get rid of it.
So being aware of its causes and symptoms, and catching them early can really make a huge difference for your recovery.
So What Causes Fungal Nails?
Your toenails are always being exposed to the pathogen that causes fungal infections. In fact, fungus and bacteria can be found almost anywhere, from public pools and locker rooms to the inside of your own shoes – warm, damp, and dark places are the perfect environment for fungus to thrive.
And when it finds a home in which to fester, the fungus begins to damage the keratin in the nail and, in severe cases, cause debilitating pain.
However, fungal toenails can also develop in other ways – in some cases, the fungus is contracted after an initial injury to the nail bed. Something as simple as a stubbed toe or an ingrown toenail can make the area more susceptible to the development of this condition.
In other cases, toenail fungus is the result of other underlying conditions that may contribute to a person developing infections in general. A good example of this is diabetes – if you are living with diabetes, then you are already at a higher risk of infection, so when fungi comes into the picture, it is likely to take hold of the nail quite quickly.
What Are the Symptoms of Fungal Nails?
The good news is that if you catch the problem early enough, it can be fairly easy to eradicate toenail fungus and save your nails from further damage. So how do you recognize the early stages of toenail fungus?
Well, inspecting your nails every day is the first step. Especially because toenail fungus can be present a very long time without causing noticeable symptoms.
Here are things you should look for when you examine your nails:
- Redness and swelling
- Foul odor emitting from the nail
- Thickening or distortion of the nail
- Pain when walking or wearing shoes
- Unusual white or yellow streaks in your nail
- Darkening or discoloration of the affected nail
- The nail starts to separate from the nail bed
- White or discolored spots that aren’t from an injury
- Crumbling along the edges or tips of the nail, particularly where it’s discolored
If you notice one or more of these symptoms in your toenails, don’t wait for them to go away on their own – the infection will most likely grow and spread. Instead, get them diagnosed right away so the fungus can be eliminated quickly and before it causes visible damage to your nail.
How Are Fungal Nails Treated?
If the infection is mild and symptoms are fairly new, a daily cleansing routine combined with nail filing and a liquid antifungal medication may help to keep the infection at bay.
However, fungal infections are fairly resilient and will often return. If over-the-counter antifungal agents are not strong enough to effectively manage the infection (or if the nail starts suffering from side effects), come visit our office to talk about your prescription options. Depending on the specifics of your case, Dr. Spitz may prescribe a topical medication as part of your treatment plan.
In some cases, removal of part (or all) of the nail is required. This approach helps to accomplish several goals. First, diseased nail tissue can be removed. Second, debris underneath of the nail will be cleaned out (debridement) and, lastly, topical antifungal medication can then be applied directly to the affected nail bed.
Our office is also pleased to offer an especially advanced fungal nail treatment option:
This treatment consists of a specifically calibrated laser that penetrates through nail tissue and reaches any fungal spores residing below the surface. Once it makes contact with the offensive fungus, the laser eradicates it on the spot. The procedure itself is painless, completely safe (FDA-approved), and proven to be highly effective.
But whatever you do, never attempt to perform “bathroom surgery.” Those who try to remove the affected nail on their own at home usually make the condition worse or end up damaging healthy tissue in the process.
Instead, make an appointment at our office as soon as possible – we will identify the root cause of the infection and then provide the best approach for you.
We Can Help You Find the Relief You Need!
Remember – the sooner the pathogen is destroyed, the sooner your nails can heal and avoid greater, more serious damage. So contact our Wheeling, IL office to schedule an appointment today by dialing (847) 465-9311. You can also fill out our handy request form online and one of our staff members will contact you to confirm your appointment.
505 N. Wolf Rd
Wheeling, IL 60090
Mon: 10am - 7pm
Tue: 10am - 5pm
Thu: 10am - 5pm
Fri: 10am - 4pm
Sat: 10am - 3pm