It’s a very common condition, but one that so many people try to hide beneath socks, shoes, and beach sand as if they are the only people who have it. It’s difficult not to blame them, though: even if it happens to many, the stigma of having thick, discolored fungal toenails remains a hefty and embarrassing one. The good news, however, is that you don’t need to conceal your toenail fungus from us. We understand the condition and can get you on the path to healthier looking nails as quickly as possible.
What is toenail fungus?
A fungal nail infection, medically known as onychomycosis, are most often caused by category of fungus known as dermatophytes. These tiny organisms thrive in warm, moist, dark environments such as around shower rooms and public pools, but shoes frequently fit this bill as well. When the fungus is able to slip into a small cut or beneath the nail, it can settle in. As the fungus grows and spreads, the nails can turn darker and duller, grow thicker, and become brittle, crumbly, or distorted in shape.
While many cases of fungal toenails cause few problems aside from an unsightly appearance, more severe cases can become painful as the nail separates from the nail bed. The infection can also spread beyond the feet in certain situations, such as having a weakened immune system due to diabetes or other complications.
What can be done for my nails?
The best way to begin treating a fungal nail infection is to make sure we know what we’re dealing with. An examination with Dr. Gregg Neibauer here at Alpine Foot & Ankle Clinic is an excellent place to start. As part of the exam, we may scrape a small sample of the debris beneath a nail and have the particular type of fungus identified by a lab. Sometimes, other tiny organisms such as yeast and bacteria can cause an infection, so it is best to know for sure.
There are several different ways to treat toenail fungus, and the right treatment may depend on the type and severity of the infection. Medicated polishes and creams can sometimes be applied to the affected nails. This form of treatment is often more effective if the nails are professionally thinned first with a file or other tool. Even then, however, the medication is not always able to penetrate deep enough to take care of all the fungus.
An oral antifungal drug taken for up to 12 weeks can sometimes take care of an infection from the inside out. However, their effectiveness seems to decrease among older patients and they can come with side effects including liver damage. Patients with certain liver or heart conditions should not use these drugs.
One method of treatment that requires no drugs and has no side effects is laser therapy. We offer the DIOWAVE Deep Treatment Laser at our office, which has proven effective in treating many cases of fungal nails by eradicating the intruding organisms with concentrated light. Sessions take only a short time and there is rarely any discomfort during the procedure.
Toenail Fungus Treatments in Missoula, MT
There’s no need to hide your fungal infection away from the world anymore. Dr. Neibauer and the staff of Alpine Foot & Ankle Clinic are here to help you discuss options that can bring clear, healthy nails back to your feet! Schedule an appointment with us by calling toll-free (406) 721-4007.