What is toenail fungus?
Toenail fungus is infection of the toenails, often characterized by thickness, splitting of the nails, and discoloration (green, yellow, brown, black), and this often is painful, especially in shoes that press down on the toenails. Common signs that you may have a fungal infection include thicker than normal toenails, oddly shaped toenails, discoloration, a yellowish hue to the nail, and separation of the nail and nail bed.
What causes toenail fungus?
Fungal infections occur due to fungus getting through the cracks of the toes or cuts in your skin. Often it starts after the toenail becomes traumatized (for instance, after running down hills or hiking, when the feet slide to the ends of the shoes and develop bleeding underneath the toenails - fungus takes the opportunity to infect when the toenail is lifted).
Toes are generally warm and damp, unfortunately making it a great area for fungus to grow. If left untreated, the fungal infection can spread, which is why it’s so important to get professional help early on and look into your treatment options.
How to avoid getting toenail fungus:
To avoid getting a fungal infection, it’s important that you wash your feet daily with soap and water, making sure to get in between your toes, and dry the feet well. When cutting your toenails, make sure the clippers you’re using are clean and that you’re cutting straight across. It’s also important that you wear shoes or sandals in areas where fungus can thrive, such as wet public places like swimming pools or locker rooms. If you get pedicures, make sure you are the first person of the day in the chair, or use a pedicure place that uses liners in the chairs. Also, bring your own instruments as the pedicure places do not sterilize the instruments, they "clean" them inbetween clients.
How is toenail fungus treated?
The toenail fungus must be treated with a fungicidal treatment (something that actually kills the fungus). Just like an infection with strep throat, you cannot kill the strep infection with warm tea and honey and vitamin C. The strep infection requires a bactericidal treatment, such as an oral antibiotic.
There are three different treatment types for treating toenail fungus.
One type is oral antifungal medication, Lamisil.
Lamisil is an effective oral treatment for toenail fungus. It requires three months of taking one pill a day. Before starting the oral treatment, liver enzymes need to be checked (blood needs to be drawn) and evaluated. If the liver enzymes are within normal limits, then the prescription is called in. After six weeks (half-way through), the liver enzymes need to be checked again. If they are good, then the final six weeks are called in to the pharmacy. Liver enzymes are also checked again at the end of the six week period. The down-sides of taking oral Lamisil are: you need to avoid drinking alcohol during the course of the treatment. Also, sometimes the toenail fungus is resistant to Lamisil.
A second type of effective treatment for toenail fungus is topical treatment.
There are different topical treatments available. The over-the-counter medications for toenail fungus are fungistatic (not fungicidal, they do not kill the fungus). The over-the-counter medications slow down the growth of the fungus, but as soon as people stop using the medication, the fungus worsens. There are effective topical medications that are prescriptions. We also sell a topical antifungal medication that is effective in getting rid of toenail fungus.
The third type of effective treatment for toenail fungus is laser treatment.
This is our favorite type of treatment. We have a Cutera laser that is FDA approved and provides awesome results for toenail fungus. The laser heats up the toenail fungus, effectively killing the toenail fungus.
If you believe you’re experiencing a fungal toenail infection, call our office (562) 429-5300 as soon as possible for a proper diagnosis and suggested plan for treatment.