You may not realize the important role your toenails play in the comfort and appearance of your feet until they sustain damage. Healthy nails protect the ends of your toes and grow straight and smooth. Various conditions can change them, however, leaving them unsightly and uncomfortable. Nail fungus is one of the most common issues.
Nail fungus is an infection under the hard keratin tissue that slowly damages your nails. The medical term is onychomycosis, and this infection is caused by microscopic fungi that thrives in warm, damp environments, especially those without much air circulation. You are exposed to the fungus in the environment, and then—if your toes are sweaty and warm—the infection takes hold. Public pools, locker rooms, saunas, gyms, and bathrooms are all prime breeding grounds for fungus.
As the pathogen gets under your nails through small cuts or separations between the nail bed and the hard tissue, it multiplies and spreads rapidly. It begins to break down your toenails, causing thickening, brittleness, discoloration, and cracking. Sometimes the affected toe emits a foul odor and debris collects under the hard tissue. The changes in nail shape can make it uncomfortable to wear shoes.
The infection is highly contagious, so it can easily pass from one toe to another, to the floors and footwear around you, and even to other people. Walking barefoot in high-risk areas, sharing footwear with an infected person, or touching the feet of someone with the fungus all sharply increase your chances of developing the condition. Nail fungus doesn’t improve without treatment, either. In fact, it typically gets worse and causes complications if allowed to fester. Nail damage opens your toes to bacterial infections as well, which is a particularly serious risk for people with diabetes or other conditions that impair the immune system.
Eliminating the Invader
Prompt treatment is key for successfully restoring your nails. The more damage your nails sustain, the harder it is to completely eliminate the infection, especially in any sort of timely fashion. You need to have the nail fungus identified and addressed as soon as you notice the changes in your nail tissue. Dr. Victoria Melhuish will examine your feet to rule out other possible causes for the nail changes. Our team may scrape some tissue off the surface of your damaged nails for tests to confirm the diagnosis. Then we can begin remedying the issue.
There are several ways to address fungal infections: topical medications, oral medicines, and laser therapy. Topical ointments, lotions, sprays, powders, and lacquers are able to eradicate the pathogen on the surface of the skin and nails, as well as in the shoes. However, they aren’t very effective for working through to the infection at the source, underneath the nail. Oral medications travel through the blood stream to treat the infected cells in the toes. These are more effective, though they also have a variety of side effects and may not work for everyone.
Laser therapy eradicates the problem in just a couple short treatments. Here at Sierra Foot & Ankle, we use the highly accurate and powerful PinPointe laser. The beam of highly focus light passes through the hard tissue without damaging it to target the infection below. It vaporizes the pathogen in a largely painless noninvasive procedure. This allows your nails to begin re-growing healthy, clear tissue immediately, so your toes are completely restored in just months. For more stubborn or reoccurring cases, you may need a procedure that removes the damaged nail.
If you’re suffering with unsightly and uncomfortable toenails, you’re not alone. You also don’t have to live with your feet like that. Some prompt, expert care can help you eliminate your condition. Don’t wait until you develop complications or pass it to loved ones. Request an appointment or more information from Sierra Foot & Ankle here in Carson City or Gardnerville, NV, by calling 888-608-8406 or by filling out the online request form.
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