Why You Shouldn’t Ignore a Toenail Fungal Infection

By on March 15, 2016
toenail fungal infection

Fungal toenail infections, or onychomycosis, is a common problem. While anyone can get toenail fungus, fungal infections and other nail and foot problems become more common with age. While the prevalence of toenail fungus is about 3-5% among the general population, studies have found a prevalence of up to 20% in people over 40. There are several reasons adults over 50 are at a higher risk of toenail fungus. Here are some of the most common factors that may be putting you at risk:

  • Diabetes and other health conditions. About 29 million people in the U.S. have diabetes, and nearly 1 in 3 adults are pre-diabetic. Toenail fungus is twice as common in diabetics, likely due to reduced circulation, nerve damage, and a reduced ability to heal. Other chronic health conditions can increase the risk of toenail fungal infections, including poor circulation or an illness that compromises the immune system.
  • Aging. The risk of toenail fungus increases with age due to reduced blood flow, slower nail growth, and more years of exposure to fungi.
  • Work boots or tight shoes. Heavy or sturdy shoes with poor ventilation create a sweaty, warm environment that encourages the development of toenail fungus. Tight, closed-toe shoes can also cause trauma to the nails and make them more susceptible to an infection.

While some consider it merely cosmetic, toenail fungus can be serious and the dangers of ignoring a toenail fungal infection are very real. A fungal infection can become painful enough to interfere with walking, lead to permanent nail loss, or disfigure the toenail. In serious cases, the infection can spread to the skin or even other areas of the body, including the bloodstream.

If you suspect you have a nail fungal infection, take action right away to avoid the very serious complications that can come from a simple fungal infection.

Toenail Fungus Treatment Options

There are a few ways to treat a toenail fungal infection. Unfortunately, conventional treatment methods are not effective in most cases as a recurrence of the infection is likely. Over-the-counter treatments aren’t recommended in most cases because they cannot penetrate the nail to the nail bed where the fungus grows.

The main approach to treating the infection is prescribing oral antifungal medications like Lamisil, Diflucan, or Sporanox. While medication is cheap and mostly safe, there are some side effects about which to worry, including the potential for liver damage. Both oral and topical medications also have trouble reaching the dead tissue in which the fungus lives. Prescription medication can relieve a nail fungal infection, but there’s a good chance the infection will return. About half of all infections treated with oral medication come back.

One of the most effective treatments currently available is laser therapy. Laser treatments are able to penetrate the toenail and target the fungal infection at its source using safe light energy that does not damage surrounding tissue. This FDA-approved treatment kills pathogens that cause infection with no side effects, unlike oral medication.

The laser procedure does not produce instant visible results. After a 30-minute treatment, the fungus itself will be killed. Your toenails will grow in healthy and clear over about three months. While more than half of all toenail fungal infections treated with oral medication return, laser treatment has an 87% success rate with no pain or harmful side effects.

If you have signs of a toenail fungal infection, including cracked or yellow toenails, contact a doctor right away. The sooner you treat the infection, the better your chances of preventing or reversing disfigurement and complications.

Infinity Foot and Ankle is a leading podiatry practice with 3 offices in Texas located in Dallas, DeSoto and Sunnyvale. Drs. Parul K. Patel and Kelly R. Lawler provide many years of successfully diagnosing and providing comprehensive podiatric care including preventative, aesthetic and surgical podiatry.


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Why You Shouldn’t Ignore a Toenail Fungal Infection