Podiatry

Toe Nail Fungal Infections

Toe Nail Fungal Infections

Essentially if you notice a thickened or discoloured nail that displays white, brown or yellowish areas, chances are you have a fungal infection of the toenail. This is not a sign of a lack of hygiene, and actually affects a large cross section of our population. Whilst we all know fungus as a mushroom it also occurs on our bodies as a micro-organism. Infection to the toe nail occurs when an opportunity presents itself for the fungus on our skin to enter underneath the nail or the nail bed. While not so much in the nail itself it uses the nail like scaffolding and builds up a colony. By using the nail as a shield, it is well protected, can be very difficult to treat and once established because we generally have our feet in shoes that offer darkness, heat and moisture (ideal conditions for fungus) it tends to flourish. It is important to start treating this condition as soon as possible otherwise the nail can be lost and the infection can spread to other nails and to the skin. Remember, the fungus started originally on the skin and just found a way underneath the nail. Treatment for nail infections can be a long process. Because the infection is beneath a shield (the toe nail) the most successful treatment is to take oral medication and attack it from the inside out. However, the disadvantages are that it is a long term process that may result in a person being medicated for between 3 to 12 months and like all medications there may be side effects, and of course for some people it is not suitable to take oral medication. The other option is to use a topical nail treatment. While this limits any side effects, compared to oral medication it doesn’t have as high a success rate because the shield can be hard to penetrate and people forget or find it hard to apply the lotion. There are laser treatments available that are for many are expensive, and the results for this do vary.

Why see a podiatrist or doctor?

If you see any signs of infection visit a podiatrist to discuss options. While this may sound dramatic, it is advantageous for us to file away as much of the infected nail as possible and even more critical, discuss what you need to do at home. Fungal infections to the nail or foot can easily establish themselves in a home and spread to all people living there. All it then takes is for one person from that house to visit another house or location in bare feet and contaminate that location. We really want to stop any cross infections.