Fungal Toenails Are Not Fun!

Yellow cracked toenails

Yellow cracked toenails

While it’s technically true that you can’t spell fungal toenails without “fun,” the unfortunate reality is that these pesky infections are anything but. They’re icky, ugly, and have the added disadvantage of being troublesome to treat—plus, the nail takes a long time to grow out once it’s been treated.

It goes without saying that you’ll want to seek treatment as soon as you can. While it’s true that most cases are not “medically serious,” many people are ashamed or embarrassed by them, and failure to treat the condition makes it more likely that the fungus will spread to other toes (or other people). Let us help you restore health to your toenails and confidence to your step!

How Can I Tell If I Have Toenail Fungus?

Symptoms of this condition can vary, but telltale signs include nails that are dull and discolored (usually yellow), thickened, brittle or crumbly, and distorted or warped. In some cases you may even detect an odor. Not all of these symptoms may be present in every case.

Why Is the Fungus Among Us?

The infection is caused by dermatophytes, microscopic fungi that feed on the keratin in your nails. These guys live in warm, dark, moist environments such as locker rooms, gym floors, public showers or pools, or an insufficiently ventilated pair of shoes, and they can spread easily through contact with an infected surface. If they get under the nail—say through a tiny (even undetectable) cut or an ingrown toenail, they’ll happily set up shop.

You’re more likely to be exposed to the problem if you live in a humid environment, don’t allow time for your socks and shoes to dry out, go barefoot in public, have an existing skin or nail injury on your foot, or have another fungal infection such as athlete’s foot. Older adults are also more susceptible, due to both reduced blood flow and more years of exposure to the pathogens.

What Can I Do About It?

If you’d like to try home treatment first, you could opt for over-the-counter antifungal creams, combined with trimming and thinning your nails. However, don’t expect the world; self-care is usually ineffective due to the difficulty of getting any topical medications to penetrate the nail and attack the fungus below. Unfortunately, this condition isn’t something you can “wait out,” either—without professional care, the infection will not go away on its own.

The best test-proven treatment for fungal toenails is an oral antifungal regimen. We prescribe a drug that you take for 6-12 weeks, which kills the fungus. Although the warped, discolored nail may take several months thereafter to grow out and off, the new nail that you grow should be clear and healthy. Unfortunately, oral antifungals are not for everyone. They can cause certain side effects such as rashes or liver damage, which is why we’ll ask you to keep an eye out for any problems and come back a few times for blood tests.

For those who cannot take the oral antifungal pill, those for whom the pill has proven ineffective, or those who have a particularly severe or painful case, we can instead remove the nail surgically and apply topical medication directly to the nail bed. This will knock out the fungus directly at the source, but it may take a long time—up to a year—for the nail to grow back fully. Alternatively, you may choose to have us destroy the nail matrix, which will prevent a new toenail from growing back entirely.

Get Your Confidence Back

Here in sunny, sandal-friendly Austin, an unsightly and embarrassing toenail condition can really hold you back. Let Dr. Keith McSpadden at North Austin Foot & Ankle Institute help you get that confidence back in your step. To schedule an appointment with us in Cedar Park or Round Rock, TX, connect with us online or dial 512-593-2949.