What is toenail fungus?
Toenail fungus is a prevalent fungal infection that occurs in the toenails. You may have the infection if one or more of your nails:
- Look thickened
- Look discolored, usually whitish to yellow-brown
- Look brittle, crumbly, or ragged
- Look distorted in shape
- Look dark due to debris building up under your nail
- Smell slightly foul
Nail fungus can affect fingernails, but it’s more common in toenails. In very rare cases, the fingernails are infected by toenail fungus. Nail fungus is also called onychomycosis.
Toenail fungus occurs when fungi get between the toenail bed and the toenail. This mostly happens when your toe has a crack or a cut.
How can you prevent toenail fungus?
There’s nothing that can guarantee that you won’t get toenail fungus. Yet you can take multiple steps to help prevent it, such as:
- Avoid walking barefoot in communal places such as public showers, locker rooms, hotel rooms/showers, and swimming pools. The majority of people get fungus in these areas. Try wearing flip-flops in these public areas as it helps.
- If you have someone in the family with foot fungus or nail fungus, try to use a different shower or always wear flip-flops in the shower to avoid coming in contact with it.
- Trauma due to accidental or aggressive cuttings of the nails can turn into the points of entry for the fungus.
- Always clean your nail cutter before using it.
- Avoid using nail cutters for a person with nail fungus.
- Do not cut, rip, or tear your toenails on purpose.
- If you have diabetes, please follow all foot care guidelines your healthcare provider gives.
- Try to keep your feet dry. After taking a shower, always fully dry your feet using a towel or cloth.
- Soak toenails in lukewarm water before cutting them or cut them after a shower or bath.
- Avoid clipping the nails from the edges; cut them straight across.
- Your shoes must not be too loose or too tight. Always wear shoes that fit accurately.
Outlook for people with toenail fungus
Although toenail fungus is very common, it’s usually not harmful. Symptoms of toenail fungus especially affect the appearance of your toenail. It can spread to the skin between your toes and other parts of your body. While getting dressed, put on your socks first to minimize the chance of spread.
Treating toenail fungus can take a long time and may even not always work. Still, toenail fungus mostly returns. It would really help if you discussed the risks and ways of preventing and treating toenail fungus with your healthcare provider to find something that is best for you.
Practicing foot care and good hygiene reduces the chance of recurring toenail fungus. If you are diabetic, getting regular foot exams may help you address foot problems before they get serious.
Can you wear nail polish if you have toenail fungus?
You may want to cover a bad-appearing toenail with nail polish. But if you are using a topical antifungal, it is better not to use nail polish. There can be doctors who may tell you not to wear it in any case. Nail polish traps in moisture from the nailbed, and because fungi develop in moist environments, wearing nail polishes may worsen a fungal infection. Yet, the nail continues to grow with or without nail polish.
Can toenail fungus spread to other areas of the body?
Yes, toenail fungus can spread to other areas in one’s body, but it usually doesn’t go further than the toe. There are some dermatophyte fungi that spread easily in the skin as it contains keratin. The type of dermatophyte fungi affecting the skin is called ringworm. It may travel to:
- Other toenails
- The skin between your toes (called athlete’s foot).
- Groin area (called jock itch).
- Scalp (skin on top of your head).
Can toenail fungus spread from one person to another person?
Yes, several types of toenail fungi are contagious, which means they can be spread from one person to another. An infected person can transfer the fungus to someone else through direct contact or sharing. Also, a person may get it by touching an infected object.
What are the most common causes of toenail fungus?
Nail fungi like warm, moist, dark places. Many people get toenail fungus by:
- Walking around the perimeters of swimming pools.
- Using a public locker room or shower.
- Walking barefoot in a public area.
Is toenail fungus painful?
Not typically. Toenail fungus can be unsightly, but it usually isn’t painful.
When should you contact the doctor?
In very rare cases, toenail fungus can give birth to an infection known as cellulitis. Without improvised treatment, cellulitis can bring a serious threat to your health.
You must seek proper guidance from a trusted healthcare provider if you have the following problems:
- Redness, pain, or pus near the toenail
- Blood pressure
- Weakened immune system
What questions should you ask your doctor about toenail fungus?
Toenail fungus is a widespread infection that can be tough to treat. The condition usually isn’t usually excruciating, but it may make your nail appear bad, and you may feel self-conscious about it. If you are bothered by it, make sure you talk about your treatment options with your healthcare provider. An experienced specialist, such as a dermatologist or podiatrist, can guide what’s most likely to solve your problems while protecting your overall health. If you have toenail fungus, you may ask your healthcare provider the following questions:
- What type of infection do I have?
- Should I go to treat it? Why or why not?
- How long will I need treatment?
- How can I take it to prevent it from coming back?
- Are there any potentially serious complications or side effects of the treatment that I should know?
What are the complications of toenail fungus?
An extremely severe case of nail fungus can be painful. It may permanently damage your nails and cause other serious infections which spread beyond your feet, especially if you have a weakened immune system because of diabetes, medication, or other conditions.
Diabetes can cause reduced blood circulation and nerve supply to your feet. Your risk of getting a bacterial skin infection (cellulitis) also increases. Therefore any slightest injury to your feet — including a nail fungal infection — can cause a more severe problem.
How can you treat toenail fungus?
Toenail fungus is extremely difficult to treat. You may need to continue taking the medication for several months to eliminate the fungus. However, toenail fungus most of the time comes back.
A dermatologist or podiatrist can discuss your treatment options with you in detail. If your symptoms are mild and are not bothering you, your provider may recommend no treatment.
Anyway, the treatment options for toenail fungus include:
- Oral antifungal medication
You can take prescribed medication, such as terbinafine (Lamisil®), itraconazole (Sporanox®), and fluconazole (Diflucan®)to treat the fungal infection. These medications would be required for as short as a day or as long as several months, depending upon the symptoms.
On the other hand, these medications can affect the liver and interact with other medications, so oral antifungals are not for everyone. Your doctor may need your blood tests to diagnose any potential side effects of the medication.
- Topical medication
A topical medication is most effective when paired with oral medications. It has to be applied regularly right on the nail. The medication treats the fungi with time.
- Laser treatments
Laser treatments are FDA approved for the temporary increase of clear nails in nail fungus but are not a cure. The doctor performing the treatment will point a high-tech laser beam and special lights towards the toenail to treat the fungus. The rates of people being completely cured by laser treatment are lower than those being cured by oral and topical mediations. Hence, they are not usually used as first-line treatments for nail fungus.
The most effective treatment for toenail fungus
The most effective and suitable toenail fungus treatment option for you depends mainly on your symptoms and situation. Your healthcare provider will consider multiple factors before recommending a treatment plan that is customized for you. Overall, oral antifungal medications may offer the most effective treatment formula. Pairing oral drugs with topical antifungal medication may make treatment more effective.
RECURA is a compounded topical cream that was developed specifically to be more affordable and effective for toenail fungus. Its special formulation is designed to hold the antifungal medication and transfer it to the fungal bed to destroy the fungal roots and eliminate the infection to prevent recurrent infections.
Get recura from Harbor Compounding Pharmacy today!