Toenail fungus often looks unsightly before it feels bothersome, which leads many people to simply ignore it and wait to seek treatment. Unfortunately, toenail fungus can actually lead to more serious issues, which is why it’s important to know when to pay attention and see a podiatrist.
Signs of Toenail Fungus
Toenail fungus, more formally known as onychomycosis, is an infection under the nailbed caused by a fungus. The most noticeable signs are a foul odor and the toenail darkening in color. Other signs include:
- White marks on the nail plate
- Thickened nails that are difficult to trim
- Brittle or “crumbling” nails
- Change in nailbed shape
- Pain when walking with shoes on
- A secondary bacterial or yeast infection in or around the nail
Causes of Toenail Fungus
Our feet come into contact with so many microorganisms, including fungi. Your toenails are especially susceptible around damp areas where you’re likely to be barefoot, including pools, showers, lakes, rivers, and locker rooms. Fungus working its way under the nailbed in these conditions is a common cause of toenail fungus issues.
Injured toenails are another cause of toenail fungus. If your nail bed is injured, whether you stub your toe or have too much pressure against the nails from shoes, it can lead to an infection.
Finally, those who suffer from chronic diseases are more susceptible to toenail fungus. This includes diabetics, immunocompromised individuals, and those with poor circulation. All of these illnesses make the feet more prone to fungal infections.
Treating a Fungal Infection at Home
Sometimes, it’s possible to treat a fungal infection at home, although it can take a very long while and isn’t always effective. If you wish to try, you will need to follow a cleansing routine daily for many months in order to suppress the infection. Some cosmetic issues related to toenail fungus can be resolved through filing off white markings and applying an over-the-counter antifungal medicine.
When to See a Podiatrist
Even with the best efforts at home-based remedies, a time might come when you need to seek professional help. Going to a general practitioner can be helpful, but contacting a podiatrist directly will expedite the treatment and healing process.
You should visit a podiatrist when you notice any of the above-mentioned symptoms of a fungal infection. Again, these include discoloration, thickening, or deformities. The sooner you seek treatment, the easier it will be to clear up the fungal infection, so don’t ignore the signs of trouble even if they aren’t causing you significant distress.
It’s especially important to make an appointment with a podiatrist if:
- You aren’t sure what’s wrong. If you have never been diagnosed with foot fungus by a podiatrist before, you might be self-diagnosing incorrectly. There are many different conditions that can mimic nail fungus, so what seems basic might actually be a more complicated, or even dangerous, issue. The best way to determine what’s truly going on is to speak with a professional.
- You are diabetic. Diabetes has many physical side effects and ailments, including toenail fungus that can get infected and is quite serious. Since diabetes can be so destructive, working closely with a podiatrist is always a good idea. Diabetics tend to get infections more easily than healthy people due to their poor blood circulation.
- At-home treatments aren’t working. If you’ve tried over-the-counter creams and soaks and are still seeing or feeling abnormalities, it is time to take things to the next level with a doctor who can provide something stronger.
A podiatrist can treat a fungal infection with a few different methods, depending upon the severity of the infection. First, an oral medication might be prescribed. Unfortunately many have side effects, including (although rare) permanent damage to the liver.
Laser treatment is another option and is sometimes very effective. Before scheduling a laser treatment, ensure it is covered by your insurance, as anything involving lasers can quickly get very expensive.
If the toenail is very infected or the infections are occurring regularly, a podiatrist might opt to remove the toenail. While this is never an ideal option, it will permanently resolve the issue.
Are You Looking for a Toenail Fungus Specialist in Austin, TX?
If you are looking for toenail fungus care, you should reach out to an experienced podiatrist. Austin Foot and Ankle Specialists can help. Our office provides a wide variety of advanced, effective treatment options for all kinds of painful conditions. Ready to schedule an appointment? Contact us online or call our Austin office at 512.328.8900.