Spring is right around the corner and you know what that means: Before too long, warmer weather will be here to stay, and along with it, sandal season. But while you probably can’t wait to ditch your clunky snow boots for a pair of open-toed shoes, the last thing you’re ready to show the world is a toenail fungal infection.
Although you may find it unsightly or even embarrassing, toenail fungus is common and affects far more people than you may imagine. Many women try to hide the problem with nail polish, but doing so only gives the fungus more time to grow and potentially damage your nails.
To get rid of toenail fungus for good, you need proper medical treatment, and the sooner you get started, the better. Here at New York Foot Experts in New York City, we’ll help you find the best treatment approach for your infection, and let you know what you can expect along the way.
Before you know it, you and your toes will be ready to step out in your favorite pair of sandals.
The lowdown on toenail fungus
A toenail fungal infection usually begins with the appearance of a white or yellow dot under the tip of your toenail. As the fungus spreads deeper into your nail, it may cause it to thicken, become discolored, or even crumble along the edge.
When a fungal infection is allowed to remain, it can spread and cause severe damage to the nail. As toenail fungus progresses, your nails may become substantially thicker and turn yellow or brown. They may also split easily and lift more easily because they’re no longer firmly attached. An advanced fungal infection may also cause your toenails to turn white or yellowish and feel soft, crumbly, and dry to the touch.
Although toenail fungal infections don’t usually cause discomfort early on, they can become painful when left untreated. Toenail fungus that progresses too far can even make it difficult to wear shoes without discomfort.
How toenail fungus takes hold
The microscopic organisms that cause nail fungal infections thrive in warm, moist environments and don’t need light to survive. They’re so small that they can invade your skin through cuts that you can’t even see, or an otherwise insignificant separation between your nail and your toe.
There are several factors that can increase your risk of getting a toenail fungus, the first of which is age: The older you get, the more likely you are to develop a fungal infection.
Walking around barefoot at public pools, showers, or locker rooms can increase your risk of catching a fungus, as can sharing personal items like nail clippers. In fact, many women contract toenail fungus after getting a pedicure in a salon that doesn’t sanitize its equipment properly.
If you have sweaty feet, simply wearing tight, closed shoes can cause you to develop a fungal infection. People with chronic, untreated athlete’s foot are also more at risk, as are people who have had a nail injury or infection.
Having psoriasis, diabetes, and poor circulation are other major risk factors, as is being a smoker.
The importance of early treatment
We can’t overstress the importance of early diagnosis and proper treatment when it comes to eradicating toenail fungus as quickly and easily as possible.
Given enough time, a fungus that started under just one of your toenails is likely to spread to all of them, making treatment that much more of a challenge. Even worse, an untreated nail fungus can spread to other people.
Treatment often begins by cutting the infected nail back to where it attaches to your toe. Scraping the area helps get rid of some of the fungus, while taking a prescription oral antifungal medication will help a new, fungus-free nail grow and slowly replace the infected nail.
Because these medicines are typically taken over the course of six to 12 weeks, you can expect it to take as long as four months to eliminate the infection.
If you have a very mild fungal infection, you may only require a topical treatment such as an antifungal nail polish or a medicated nail cream. These medicines help stop the spread of the infection and keep new fungus out as your nails grow.
Topical treatments work more slowly than oral antifungal medications, which is why it may take as long as 12-18 months to fully eradicate toenail fungus using this method.
Toenail fungus can be stubborn, but if you apply topical medications or take oral drugs exactly as prescribed and keep all of your follow-up appointments, you’ll be ready for sandal season before you know it.
If you’re ready to eradicate toenail fungus for good, New York Foot Experts can help — call our nearest NYC office today, or make your appointment with our convenient online booking tool.