Stop toenail fungus in its tracks

Toenail fungus (also called onychomycosis) happens when tiny organisms called fungi begin to grow under your toenail. A fungal infection may require medicines or other medical treatment.

Toenails are especially susceptible to fungal infections because your toes are often in shoes, the perfect environment for fungal growth. Fungi like to grow in places that are dark, warm and moist.

You may be at a higher risk of toenail fungus if you are older, wear socks or shoes that don’t allow air to get in and out well, walk barefoot in damp places like around pools, or have other foot conditions like athlete’s foot. Health conditions that affect your circulation (like diabetes or peripheral vascular disease) or your immune system also make you more likely to get toenail fungus.

What are the symptoms of toenail fungus?

Usually nail fungus starts as a white or yellow spot under the tip of your toenail. The infection can go deeper, causing symptoms such as:

  • Change in nail color
  • Thicker toenail
  • Brittle, ragged-looking toenails
  • Strange shaped toenails
  • Dull toenails
  • Bad toenail odor
  • Pain

Toenail fungus can spread to other toes and your fingernails, so it is important that you keep your nails clean and use treatments to eliminate fungus.

How is toenail fungus treated?

Sometimes you can treat toenail fungus on your own at home. Over-the-counter anti-fungal creams are often very effective at curing toenail fungus and are easy to apply.

You should also keep your nails trimmed and filed to be thinner. This helps creams get to more parts of your nail and be more effective.

If at-home treatments don’t work, you should see a doctor. If you have diabetes, you should always see your doctor about any foot problems, including toenail fungus.

At your appointment, your doctor will examine your nails and may take a sample of tissue from under your toenail to test for fungus. He or she can then prescribe you stronger medicines to get rid of toenail fungus. You may need to take medicine as a pill for several weeks to cure your fungal infection. Your doctor might also give you prescription nail polish or cream that can help keep your toenails healthy.

In the rare cases of very severe, very painful infections, your doctor might recommend surgically removing your toenail and allowing a new nail to grow back.

To schedule an appointment with a specialist at Main Line Health, call 1.866.CALL.MLH (1.866.225.5654) or use our secure online appointment request form.