What Causes Toenail Fungus?

If you've developed thickening of your toenails or most often fungus of the toenails called onychomycosis, it means that you've had athlete's foot. You may never have experienced itching and all the things we think of when people get athletes foot but fungus infection of the skin is what then leads to fungal infection of the nails.

How Do You Treat Athlete's Foot?

In the skin it's easily treatable, often itches, but when treated for about three weeks with a topical cream you can get rid of your athlete's foot. However, fungus in the skin isn't always symptomatic. And if your nails are thickening and changing it means there's a nail infection and there's a skin infection. Both need to be treated. Topical creams can treat the skin infection. In the nail, it's much more resistant.

How Do You Treat Fungal Toenails?

But what's done to treat these nail infections? Luckily when it's in the nail it's not contagious like it is in the skin. And even though it's not urgent, and it's slow to progress, and it often starts in the big toenails, it will gradually take over the nail and spread to other nails. It usually takes combinations of treatment to get rid of fungus of the toenails.

The ones most well known are topical medications and I know there's many many available over the counter and even prescriptive ones. But the success rate there is low, even when treated for a year.

Next on the list is oral medications. There are side effects that are important to understand but oral medications taken for three months can help you get rid of fungus of the toenails. There is also a recurrence this way.

Next on the list is laser. Laser therapies were developed later and when combined with topical medications, and some low dosing of oral medications, we can get the success rate of treating fungus toenails to go up much more.

I think the most important thing to understand about fungus of the toenails is it's probably the most difficult thing I've treated in all my years in practice. The toenail grows so slowly that the treatment program takes time. But if you are having thickness of your toenails, discoloration, and are concerned, come in! Let's get this problem evaluated, treat the skin treat the nails and help you resolve your fungal toenails.

Dr. Rion Berg
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A podiatrist in North Seattle treating families for over 40 years.