A fungus infection of the toenail, also known as onychomycosis, is one of the most common dermatologic disorders affecting the foot. Whereas Ringworn is a dermatophyte fungal infection of the skin, onychomycosis is a dermatophyte fungus infection of the nail. The disease is characterized by a thickening of the toenail plate, debris under the toenail, a lifting of the leading edge of the nail, a change in nail color and occasionally an odor. Patients complain that toenail fungus is ugly and embarrassing. This condition is often ignored because the infection can be present for years without causing any pain.
If ignored, the infection can spread to other toenails, the skin on the feet (ringworm or tinea pedis) and even the fingernails. Severe cases can impair one's ability to walk or lead to painful ingrown toenails. Secondary bacterial infections may occur on or around the toenail plate.
Contributing factors for developing nail fungus infection include:
- A history of athlete's foot
- Injury to the nail bed
- Sports / Shoe trauma
- Excessive perspiration
- Circulatory problems
- Immune-deficiency conditions
The best offense is a good defense. Prevention is key to avoiding fungal infection.
Prevention tips include:
- Proper hygiene, i.e. washing the feet with soap and water.
- Dry thoroughly; use powder as a drying agent.
- Daily inspection of the feet and toes
- Shower shoes should be worn when possible in public areas.
- Wear shoes that are breathable.
- Bring your own instruments/nail polish to a pedicurist
Treatment for Fungal Nails
Historically, treatments for fungal nails included topical medications, oral agents (pills) or surgical removal of the nail plate. The topical medications were largely ineffective. Oral agents have been known to affect the liver and blood tests needed to be monitored to prevent damage. Removal of the nail plate was painful and debilitating.
Now with the Noveon dual wavelength laser, treatment for fungal nails is easy, effective and without the risk of side-effects from oral medication.