The Painful Truth About Toenail Fungus

Many people think of toenail fungus as merely an annoying condition that they can just cover up with nail polish or socks. But it’s not. In the beginning stages fungal toenails may not be that bad. The dermatophytes or fungus that cause onychomycosis (the medical term for this condition) will turn your nails all kinds of lovely colors in the beginning--yellow, brown, maybe blackish but they haven’t been living in your nail bed that long to do much damage beyond a less than lovely color. However, once the buggers have set up shop they continue to do their dirty work causing the nail to lift, become disfigured, cause pain, and in some cases lead to ulcers of the toes (the latter usually occurs when someone has diabetes or another problem that causes poor circulation to the feet).

Toenail fungus can also be transmitted to other members of your family. After all it’s a fungus and it doesn’t just stay on your toes. You may have even gotten it from another person you know or from someone at your gym in the shower room.

The other problem with toenail fungus is that it’s chronic. As much as I want to tell my patients it will go away forever once we treat it, but the truth is that fungus is very hard to eliminate. Think about your teeth. It would be great if you could go to the dentist just once to get rid of all your plaque, but that’s not how it works. Not only do you have to go back to your hygienist annually you also have to brush your teeth daily.

Here are my recommendations to people with toenail fungus or for those who think they have it:

Is it Really Fungus?
Not all discolored nails are toenail fungus. When you make an appointment with a podiatrist or other provider who wants to treat you, ask them how they know it’s fungus. Sometimes you can tell it’s fungus by visual inspection, but sometimes a clipping of the toenail needs to be sent in for analysis. It doesn’t make sense to spend a lot of money getting treated for something that may not be fungus at all.

Is Nail Polish OK?
Don’t cover up your fungal nails with nail polish. According to my colleague Dr. Andrew Schneider nail polish can weaken nails making them more susceptible to toenail fungus. I agree. If you want to use polish, I recommend a Dr.’s Remedy Enriched Nail Polish which does not contain any of the nail weakening toxins.

Inform Yourself
Get as much information as possible when considering treatment for your fungal nails. In my Guide To Eliminating Ugly, Fungal Toenails, I discuss the pros and cons of each type of treatment.

Prevent Re-Infection
During treatment and even after treatment has completed it’s important to keep down the level of fungus in your shoes. We recommend the SteriShoe+ Ultraviolet Shoe Sanitizer  to all our patients with toenail fungus. It eliminates 99% of the fungal spores and takes only 45 minutes to do so.

Avoid Getting A New Infection
Unfortunately it’s hard to be sure that your nail spa is thoroughly sterilizing all of their equipment, so employing a DIY pedicureis really your best bet. Also, be sure to wear flip flops in the shower room at the gym or pool.

For more information about treating fungal nails, as your Seattle podiatrist I’d be happy to talk with you about your options. Call the Foot and Ankle Center of Lake City at 206-368-7000 or request an appointment online.

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