According to the CDC, up to 14% of the population has had a fungal infection of the toenails, making it a relatively common problem. Although annoying, a fungal infection isn't severe and is often treatable.
However, knowing what to expect from treatment is essential to dealing with a fungal infection. Various forms of fungi can affect the nails, leading to toenail infections and fungal overgrowth.
Treatment may be as easy as applying a cream to the area or as complex as laser therapy. Whatever your needs, the Beltsville Foot and Ankle Center team can help.
Dr. David Dieboldt is an expert podiatrist providing specialized treatments for various foot and ankle problems, including toenail fungal infections.
Signs of toenail fungus
Dermatophytes often cause toenail fungus and are a form of mold that feeds on keratin, the main component of the nails. The toenail fungus that a dermatophyte causes is called tinea unguium.
Dermatophytes cause almost all cases of toenail fungus, although other fungi can affect the nails.
The type of fungus you have and the severity of the infection dictate the symptoms you experience. Some of the common signs of toenail fungus include:
- Cloudy or chalky appearance
- Change in color of the nail
- Thickened nails
- Misshapen toenails
- Cracking or breaking of the nails
The nail may also separate itself from the skin underneath, known as the nail bed. You may experience all or only some of the above symptoms when you have a fungal toenail infection.
What treatments are available?
The great news is that toenail fungus is manageable with professional treatment. You may try to treat it on your own, but it often requires specialized care from a podiatrist or foot specialist.
Treatment depends on the severity of the infection and how you respond to therapy. The treatments we offer at Beltsville Foot and Ankle Center include:
We often prescribe topical antifungal medications to control a fungal nail infection. You need to apply the topical cream several times a day to the affected nail. We may thin the nail to allow the medication to penetrate and treat the fungus.
Oral antifungal medications
Oral antifungal medications are another option for people dealing with a fungal infection. You need to take the medication for several months to clear the condition, and these medications sometimes come with unwanted side effects.
Several of the common types of oral antifungal medications include Lamisil®, Diflucan®, and Sporanox®.
If oral and topical medications don't relieve your symptoms, we recommend laser treatment. The laser temporarily clears the nail of fungus but isn't a long-term cure. In most cases, laser treatment isn't the first line of defense against nail fungus.
The most effective treatment for nail fungus is a combination of oral medications and topical creams for most patients.
Can I prevent toenail fungus?
You can undoubtedly prevent toenail fungus from forming in the first place by taking a few essential steps to protect your feet. If you've had toenail fungus in the past or are at risk for the problem, Dr. Dieboldt recommends the following prevention tips to keep your nails healthy:
- Avoid walking around locker rooms or swimming pools barefoot
- Wear flip-flops in public areas
- Trim your nails properly to avoid cuts or open areas
- Maintain dry feet during the day and thoroughly dry after a shower
- Keep your nail trimmers clean
- Wear shoes that fit correctly and aren't tight around the toes
It's also crucial to follow foot care regimens when you're living with diabetes, which affects foot health. Diabetes makes it hard to feel when you have a cut or open area around the toes, where fungi can enter, causing an infection.
Following these tips reduces the risk of developing a toenail fungal infection significantly. However, even with the utmost care, getting a fungal infection in the nail is still possible.
Call the Beltsville, Maryland office today to schedule an orthotic fitting with Dr. Deiboldt. You can also request a consultation using our convenient online scheduling tool.