Why You Shouldn't Ignore Nail Fungus

While your first instinct may be to conceal discolored or deteriorating toenails, doing so won’t improve their condition. Unsightly toenails may be a sign of toenail fungus, a common foot condition caused by microscopic organisms.

Ignoring toenail fungus allows the condition to worsen. Without treatment, toenail fungus can lead to permanent nail damage and even affect other parts of your body.

Toenail fungus specialist Jeremy Moran, DPM, provides expert foot care at his private practice, ToeOp, in Tomball, Texas. Dr. Moran delivers professional toenail fungus treatments that can eradicate destructive microorganisms and allow your nails to return to normal. 

After a thorough examination, Dr. Moran designs a program to treat your symptoms based on the condition of your toenail fungus and your overall health. At ToeOp, we deliver fast and effective treatment to quickly clear the infection and help you avoid recurrence of toenail fungus.

How toenail fungus occurs

Toenail fungus, or onychomycosis, is an infection that develops when microorganisms grow under the surface of your nail. It typically occurs after your toenail has had contact with a dermatophyte fungus, though it can also be related to molds or yeasts.

Anyone can have toenail fungus, but it’s more common in older adults. The condition affects about 75% of people over age 60. With age, your nails become more brittle and cracks develop on the surface. These cracks are the perfect entry points for fungi.

Hygiene concerns

When left untreated, nail fungus can cause the affected nail to thicken, then your nail becomes difficult to trim and keep clean. 

As your toenails grow, debris and bacteria continue to collect under the nail bed. The result is a discolored nail and a foul-smelling odor.

Foot pain

As your nails become thicker, the nail fungus can also cause excruciating pain. The sensation can be so intense that it can be difficult to walk in shoes. 

The infection can also make your nail chip or fall off in pieces, which can also be extremely painful. 

Infection spreads

Once the microorganisms enter your toenail, the dark and damp environment of your feet in shoes and socks serves as the perfect breeding ground for fungi to multiply and spread. 

When the infection spreads past the toenail, it can affect other nearby toenails as well as the skin on your foot, resulting in athlete’s foot.  

The infection can even spread to your genitals when you pull on your underwear, resulting in a condition called jock itch.

Complications 

You may have an increased risk of complications from toenail fungus if your immune system is compromised due to the side effects of medication or some medical conditions. 

If you have diabetes, reduced nerve sensation in your feet may prevent you from noticing that you have a problem until the toenail fungus becomes severe.

Reduced blood circulation associated with diabetes can slow wound healing and your body’s ability to fight infections like toenail fungus. The result increases your risk of developing cellulitis, a bacterial skin infection. If the infection becomes so severe that it can’t be controlled, it can lead to amputation.

By ignoring toenail fungus, you may also miss more serious foot conditions. Without a medical evaluation, it’s impossible to know the source of the nail’s deterioration. In some cases, squamous cell skin cancers and melanomas have brown or black discoloration that you may misinterpret as toenail fungus.

Getting treatment

You get the best results if you begin treatment as soon as possible after the infection begins. Severe cases of toenail fungus can take up to a year or more to clear up.

Treating toenail fungus requires an antifungal treatment. While you’ll find many over-the-counter options for treating nail fungus, you may not get the best results. 

Medicated nail polish or topical antifungal creams or ointments may be effective, though oral antifungals provide the fastest results. The treatment most appropriate for your needs depends on the type of fungus causing your infection and the extent of your condition. 

Treatment often requires more than one type of therapy and may include debridement, which is the removal of the diseased nail matter and debris. If the infection is severe, Dr. Moran may recommend removal of the affected nail.

Getting the right treatment is key. If your toenail fungus isn’t entirely eradicated, it can reinfect your toenail even if the area appears to be improving.  

Find out if your symptoms are signs of toenail fungus so you can begin treatment as soon as possible. Schedule an appointment for an examination by calling us at ToeOp today.

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