Have you noticed changes in the appearance of your nail, and now you're worried that you may have a fungal infection? Are you dealing with a crumbling, yellow toenail that's deformed, or that gives off an odor? Then you most likely have toenail fungus. Here's how we can treat your infection at our podiatry practice in Powder Springs.

How Do You Get Rid of Fungus on Your Toenails?

Before we talk treatment, let's take a step back and explore what exactly is toenail fungus, also known as onychomycosis? This is an infection that forms beneath your nail surface. Once your nail is affected, the infection can lead to changes in the color, texture and smell of your toenail, even making it crumble. Toenail fungus is also infectious, which means it can spread from one nail or one family member to another if left untreated. Plus, the cosmetic changes to your nail make it tough to wear open toed shoes or show off a pretty pedicure. And both of those reasons should be cause to start treating your toenail fungus now, so that your nails will be back to full health in time for summer. But first, let's look at why you might develop this fungal infection. 

Toenail Fungus: Causes an example of a toenail fungus infection

Our world is covered with tiny organisms known as fungus. Most of the time, they just sit there, not bothering anyone. But trouble can begin if fungal particles enter your skin and your bloodstream. In fact, that's when you may develop a fungal toenail. 

Why is your toenail such a target for fungus? Lots of us walk around barefoot, meaning your feet and nails are vulnerable to cuts and damage that creates an opening for fungus to enter. Plus, if you have a chronic disease like diabetes, you're more likely to develop a fungal infection, so you should never go barefoot if you're living with this illness.

Symptoms of Toenail Fungus

When an infection is first forming, toenail fungus won't be noticeable. But as the infection progresses, you'll develop warning signs and symptoms including:

  • Thick, yellow nails
  • Foul odor coming from the toenail
  • Brittle, crumbly nails
  • Changes to the shape of your nail
  • Chalky debris that forms beneath your nail
  • More frequent ingrown toenails
  • Skin sensitivity surrounding the nail infected with toenail fungus

Preventing Toenail Fungus Infections

No one wants to waste time hiding toenail fungus inside closed toes shoes or boots. Instead, we can take steps to prevent toenail fungus from invading our nails by protecting them from injury. By keeping the nails strong and safe, you can avoid creating openings that allow fungus to enter your system.

Proper hygiene is also crucial to preventing onychomycosis, so you should wash your feet with warm water and soap on a daily basis. Make sure to dry them carefully afterward—especially in between those toes--or you might encourage a different type of fungal infection: Athlete's foot.

Now, we mentioned that walking barefoot increases your risk for toenail fungus, especially when you're in wet public areas such as pool decks or locker rooms. But the shoes you choose matter. They should be well-fitted and breathable, since sweaty feet can create a fungal breeding ground inside your shoes. (You can avoid this problem by wearing different shoes each day. And by selecting athletic socks that wick sweat away from your feet. Even carrying a spare pair of dry, clean socks in your bag can help you prevent fungal infections. Especially on days when your feet are likely to sweat.)

Finally, the way you trim your nails can help prevent fungal toenail infections. When it's time to cut your naills, trim straight across the nail, never following the curve of the nail bed. Also, leave some of that white nail visible when you trim. Going too short exposes the vulnerbale skin beneath your nail bed, increasing your risk for toenail fungus infections. And on the subject of nail trimming? Don't share scissors with anyone else in the family, as that increases your risk for fungal infections. But do make sure to regularly clean and disinfect the scissors you use for your nail, lowering your risk for developing infections of any kind. Soap and warm water will do just fine. But you can also use rubbing alcohol for added impact.

Diagnosing and Treating Toenail Fungus in Powder Springs, GA  laser treatment for toenail fungus

Hopefully, these preventative tips will keep your nails free from toenail fungus. But if you've noticed any of the symptoms mentioned in this post, you need to come into the office today for a thorough exam. Fungal toenail treatments take time to work their magic, so if you want your feet to be pretty for summer, now's the time to start taking action!

Once you come in, we'll be able to diagnose your toenail fungus with a physical exam. During your exam, if we want a bit more information, we may order some more tests. That will allow us to identify the exact type of fungus causing your infection, so we can tailor your treatment plan appropriately. 

What will that treatment plan include? There are many different ways to treat toenail fungus, and the option we choose will depend on how advanced your infection has become, along with the type of fungus causing your problems. Generally, we'll recommend laser treatment for toenail fungus. Many patients benefit from our laser treatment and it is a more effective treatment option than topical or oral medications alone.  In some cases, we may need to remove part of your infected nail to clear out the debris and speed up the healing process.

Now, that speed varies by individuals. But you can expect treatment to last at least six months, at which point the appearance of your nail should start to improve. What does that mean if you're dealing with toenail fungus right now? It's time to schedule an appointment with Dr. Alvin Cowans in Powder Springs, GA, also serving patients in Lost Mountain, Marietta, Dallas, Kennesaw, Acworth, Hiram, and throughout Cobb and Paulding Counties. If we start treatment today, we can get your feet ready to show off those cute summer pedicures!