Onychomycosis, which is the medical term for fungal nails, plagues millions of Americans, especially the elderly, every year. Yearly, over 350 million dollars are spent on nail fungus treatments. These are the most commonly asked questions that people have about fungal toenails, but may be too shy to ask, so here are the answers to the questions that you may be pondering.
How did I get fungus in my nails?
The most common fungus that invades the nails giving the nails that thickened, brittle, and yellow discoloration is called Trichophyton rubrum. The easiest and most common way for the fungus to get into the nail is by a toenail injury. Once trauma is done to a toenail, it is very likely that the fungus will be able to enter the nail and work its way down to the root of the nail. Once the fungus reaches the root of the nail, the nail will keep growing thick, brittle, and yellowed. Another common way that fungus enters the nail is by being in its favorite environment, which consists of darkness, warmth, and moist feet. The fungus is able to thrive in this environment, so it is very important that every time after bathing, you dry in between your toes, feet, and nails. Also, if your feet sweat a lot during the day and you find yourself have damp socks by the end of the day, you should be changing your socks at least one time per day. Fungus may also be able to imbed itself into the nails of patients who suffer from a decreased immune system due to autoimmune diseases and overall poor health. Lastly, some studies have also shown that nail fungus may also partially be due to genetics.
If I don’t treat the fungus, will it harm me?
No, it will not directly cause any harm, but it is always best to seek medical treatment. It is important to note that some patients experience pain with having fungal nails. However, even if you don’t have pain, you may not like how your nails appear and it may make your nails very difficult to cut due to the increased thickness. In order to make the nails softer for trimming, you can apply Vick’s Vapor Rub to the nail and wear socks to bed and then trim the nails immediately after bathing.
How do I treat fungal nails and how effective are the various treatments?
There are many over the counter topical medications to help treat onychomycosis; however, these anti-fungal topicals are rarely effective since it does not kill the fungus at the root of the nail.
There is a more effective and commonly prescribed oral prescription medication called Terbinafine. However, it is important to note that this medication may cause liver damage, so if prescribed, blood tests will need to be done periodically to make sure that it is not harming the liver. This medication is usually reserved for younger patients with minor or no health problems.
There is also laser therapy available, which works to zap, heat up, and kill the fungus. The FDA has only approved a couple lasers, but there have not been any studies that have shown complete and permanent eradication with laser therapy. If you have fungal nails, schedule an appointment at the Boulder Foot and Ankle for more information and further treatment. We can be reached at (303) 442-2910.