One of the most difficult body infections to treat occurs right at our feet.  Toenail fungus, or onychomycosis, is an infection under the surface of the nail caused by a fungus.  Many people go undiagnosed or have failed many attempts to get rid of it.  As a podiatrist, I help patients on a daily basis to manage this challenging disease.  Most people are surprised at the facts about onychomycosis and its treatment.

Toenail fungus (onychomycosis) of the great toenail

Toenail fungus (onychomycosis) of the great toenail

More people have it than you think.  About 36 million Americans are estimated to have toenail fungus.  But only 6 million of those Americans are actually diagnosed by a doctor.  That leaves 30 million people who do not know they have onychomycosis, or they are self-treating their problem toenail with various over-the-counter remedies.

It is contagious.  Although it is wise to avoid exposure to fungus from public showers and hotel carpets, infection mostly occur from people in the same household.  Toenail fungus can spread from infected shoes, socks, linens, carpeting, nail care utensils, and even nail polish brushes.  It can even come from one’s own athlete’s foot infection or spread from one nail to another.

Treatment options may be limited.  Currently, the most successful treatment approved by the FDA is with a prescription oral medication.  Because of potential side effects caused by oral antifungal drugs, some patients may not be able to take them.  Other therapies may include prescription topical medications, laser treatment, or removal of the nail plate to treat the underlying infected nail bed.

Early treatment increases likelihood of cure.  When toenail fungus involves the entire nail or several toenails, getting rid of all the fungus becomes a challenge.  So, the first appearance of a toenail infection is the best time to treat it.  Toenail fungus also tends to be more resistant to cure in older patients and with people with diabetes.

Treatment time can last a year.  Because toenails grow at a slow rate, it can take months to even see significant improvement.  Medication must be delivered to the site of the nail infection for 48 weeks.  The toenail would have to be trimmed regularly of disease nail tissue to reduce the amount of fungus the medication must fight against.

There is a high rate of recurrence.  Even with complete cure of toenail fungus, it can come back.  This may be due to a person’s genetic tendency to get the infection, a weak immune system, or improper sanitation.  After treatment, one must disinfect shoes with antifungal spray or treat shoes with a commercial ultra violet light device.

It can put certain people at risk of foot complications.  A thick, deformed fungal toenail can be painful and put excess pressure on the toe.  This can lead to a breakdown of the underlying skin which can become infected.  People with diabetes, poor circulation, or who have loss of feeling in the feet must see a podiatrist on a regular basis to avoid serious foot problems.

Don’t only treat the fungal toenail infection but also break the cycle of re-infection.

Don’t only treat the fungal toenail infection but also break the cycle of re-infection.  If you need a podiatrist in the Tuscaloosa area, I would be more than happy to help you successfully fight toenail fungus.  My office also provides quality foot care products that will help keep your feet fungus free.  Just call Rosemarie Caillier, DPM, PC at (205) 409-0175 to schedule an appointment.