Toenail Fungus (onychomycosis)

Toenail fungus is an infection of the nail bed on one or more toes. Fungus can easily spread from one nail to another, or from one person to another, if in close enough contact.

Dermophytes, a category of fungi, attack the nail and eat away at the keratin (protein) within the nail. This causes the classic fungal symptoms of growing thick, brittle, discolored nails. In extreme circumstances, the nails can have a foul odor, and even lift off the nail bed.


Causes

While toenail fungus can stem from a wide variety of reasons, most of the contractible causes can be summarized as follows:

  • Moist shoes and socks
  • Visiting nail salons regularly
  • Frequently wearing leather shoes
  • Having a history of nail trauma or diabetes

If any of these apply to you, be aware of the symptoms and preventative measures, so you can catch it early.


The Progression of Nail Fungus.

Toenail fungus progresses through 5 different stages, with symptoms ranging from slight brittleness to nail root rot. The stages of toenail fungus can be tracked through the following figure:

Stage 1

Symptoms:
-Slightly yellowed
-Flakey, brittle growth

Stage 2

Symptoms:
-Nail rot grows toward root
-Increasing discoloration

Stage 3

Symptoms:
-Increased thickness that extends to the nail root
-Infection of nail bed

Stage 4A

Symptoms:
-Significant thickness that affects the entire nail bed
-Pain

Stage 4B

Symptoms:
-Infection of the nail bed
-Flakey surrounding skin


Preventative Measures

To prevent the spread or growth of toenail fungus, you can follow the following steps:

  • Exercise proper hygiene and regularly inspect feet and toe
  • Keep your feet, shoes, and socks clean and dry
  • Wear shower shoses in communal facilities
  • Keep your nail short
  • Use a quality foot powder in conjuction with breathable, well-fitting shoes
  • Wear moisture wicking socks
  • Do not apply polish to nails suspected to have an infection


Treatment Pathways


Nonsurgical:

Oral Medication
An oral antifungal prescription will help to eliminate any minor infection. This works by killing the fungal cells from the inside of the body to prevent further spreading to the surrounding tissue.

Topical Medication
Topical antifungal medication can be used in accompaniment with either oral medication or laser treatment. It is brushed onto the nail, similar to applying nail polish. This method helps to eliminate the growth of fungal cells specifically on top of the nail. This can also help to fortify the nail during laser treatment. Our team recommends consistent use of the products for the best results.

Laser Treatment
Laser treatments are a safe and pain-free way to take care of nail fungus. The specially patented laser is designed to emit pulses of energy strong enough to penetrate through the nail bed, without disturbing the surrounding healthy tissue. This is the reason why laser treatments have proven to be a more effective treatment path. Pulsing the laser uses specific wavelengths to help minimize the mold or fungal cells, without giving the patient any “burning” sensation, like felt with other types of lasers.

Surgical Treatment
If the fungus cannot be mitigated with any of the aforementioned treatments, the doctor may recommend a total nail rejuvenation surgery to completely eliminate the issue.


Surgical:

If the fungus cannot be mitigated with any of the aforementioned treatments, the doctor may recommend a total nail rejuvenation surgery to completely eliminate the issue.