No one likes a fungal infection. They are uncomfortable, embarrassing, and easy to catch. Even your toenails are vulnerable to fungus. You can develop an unpleasant, unsightly infection right under the hard keratin. Toenail fungus can be hard to eliminate, but the sooner you address the problem and begin podiatric treatment, the easier it will be to manage the condition.
Understanding the Infection
Toenail fungus is caused by a microscopic organism that grows in warm, damp environments. It can be found almost anywhere that the atmosphere is right for it. Pools, public bathrooms and showers, saunas, and locker rooms are all breeding grounds for the pathogen. The humidity encourages growth, and the frequent barefoot traffic helps spread it around. Feet also foster the right environment—warm, sweaty, and enclosed in shoes—and allow the infection to set in under the nails and grow.
The pathogen gets under your nails through tiny cuts in the skin near the hard keratin, or through small separations between your nail and the nail bed. Once it’s there, it multiplies and starts breaking down your keratin tissue. Over time, your nail becomes discolored and dull. It can also thicken and become brittle or crumbly. The more the condition progresses, the more it distorts your nail. Eventually this can become fairly uncomfortable, especially when you wear shoes, and cause an unpleasant odor. It can also spread to other nails, the skin around them, and even other members of your family. Your shoes become contaminated, too, re-exposing your feet to the condition every time you wear them.
Traditional Toenail Treatments
Infections underneath the hard keratin are hard to eliminate. The sooner you deal with them, however, the easier it is to treat and the quicker you see healing. Our physicians at Martin Foot and Ankle will need to look at your toes and rule out other possible causes for your discolored, distorted nails. This may include scraping a small bit of damaged keratin off the top of the nail to test it for the specific pathogen. Once we have diagnosed your toenail fungus, you can begin treatment.
Traditional conservative care involves anti-fungal medication. Topical creams and ointments kill the infection on the surface of the nails and the skin. This, however, doesn’t usually reach the microorganisms festering underneath your nail. Oral anti-fungal medication travels through the blood stream to reach the nail bed directly, slowly killing the infection there. This tends to be more effective than just the topical medication, though it takes a long time and doesn’t work for everyone. A minor procedure to remove the damaged nail and clean out the infected tissue is another option. No matter what method you use, though, you’ll still need to treat your shoes as well to help prevent reinfection.
Advanced Conservative Care—Laser Toenail Therapy
Technology has created an alternative option to eliminate your toenail fungus. Laser therapy uses intensely focused beams of light to vaporize infected cells underneath your nail. The Martin Foot and Ankle podiatry team uses the advanced laser to treat toes. The beam is set to a wavelength that targets the fungus specifically, allowing it to pass through your toenail without damaging it. The whole procedure is quick (often less than 10 minutes!) and doesn’t require any time off. You can return to your normal activities immediately. There are no known side effects of the procedure and little or no discomfort associated with the therapy.
Once the infection is eliminated, your toe immediately begins growing new, healthy nail tissue. You should see the clear, beautiful nails growing in after just a couple months. It will take some time to completely replace the damaged tissue, particularly if the condition was advanced, but this is a quicker option than treating with traditional medication.
You don’t have to learn to live with unsightly, embarrassing, or uncomfortable toenails. Our expert team at Martin Foot and Ankle can help you eliminate the problem quickly, so you don’t have to worry about your toes. Contact our offices in Lancaster, Lititz, York, and Hanover, PA, for an appointment or more information. Just call (717) 757-3537 or use the web request form to reach us.