Toenail fungus can be an annoying disturbance or a serious threat to your foot health. At North Florida Foot & Ankle Specialists in Gainesville and Lake City, Florida, Joshua Epstein, DPM, AACFAS, FACPM, and Sarina Epstein, DPM, AACFAS, diagnose and treat toenail fungus in patients of all ages. If you suspect you have toenail fungus, call North Florida Foot & Ankle Specialists today.
What is toenail fungus?
Toenail fungus, or onychomycosis, is an organism that can infect your nails. The fungus typically starts as a small white or yellow spot in the nail that gradually grows and spreads. In many instances, toenail fungus results from an infection in the skin called tinea pedis (athlete’s foot).
The infection begins under the nail fold and grows underneath the nail, changing its texture and appearance. Without treatment, toenail fungus can destroy the affected nail and spread to others nearby.
What are the symptoms of toenail fungus?
Once toenail fungus starts to grow, you may begin experiencing symptoms such as:
- Yellow or brown discoloration
- Crumbly toenails
- Thickened nails
- Nail distortion
- Debris buildup
- A foul smell
Fungus nails can become extremely uncomfortable. While they can affect the fingernails, they’re far more common in toenails.
What causes toenail fungus?
The most common cause of toenail fungus is a fungus called dermatophyte. Fungus thrives in moist environments, so certain footwear and activities can increase your risk of developing toenail fungus. Dry, brittle nails are also more susceptible to toenail fungus, as small cracks allow the bacteria to break through the surface.
Common risk factors for toenail fungus include:
- Older age
- A history of athlete’s foot
- Increased sweat
- Skin or nail injuries
- Preexisting skin conditions
- Decreased blood circulation
Individuals who walk around locker rooms and public swimming pools barefoot are also more vulnerable to toenail fungus.
What are the treatments for toenail fungus?
Toenail fungus typically requires professional treatment to eliminate. At North Florida Foot & Ankle Specialists, your podiatrist performs an exam of your nail before recommending treatment.
Antifungal medications are the most common treatments for toenail fungus. Depending on the severity of your condition, your doctor may prescribe oral medication or a topical treatment to apply to the nail. Topical solutions are typically available in two forms, medicated nail polish or nail cream. North Florida Foot & Ankle Specialists also offers laser nail rejuvenation therapy to restore the nail.
If the fungus isn’t responding to topical or oral medications, your podiatrist may recommend removing the nail. Once removed, they can apply the medication directly to the skin to eliminate the infection at the source.
To learn more about toenail fungus, call North Florida Foot & Ankle Specialists to schedule an appointment today.