Nail fungus, also known as onychomycosis and tinea unguium, is a common nail condition. It causes the toenail to become yellow or discoloured, and as the infection advances, the nail becomes thick, brittle and separates from the nail bed, becoming painful and unsightly.
Being one of Melbourne’s leading cosmetic dermatology clinics with a range of toenail fungus treatment options, we can treat this condition successfully.
- Topical toenail fungus treatments
- Oral antifungal medications
- Laser toenail fungus treatment, using the GenesisPlus, a Nd:YAG 1064nm laser, that has been cleared by the FDA to be both a safe and effective method of toenail fungus treatment
Contact us to arrange a consultation with one of our cosmetic dermatology specialists at our Melbourne clinic to discuss your toenail fungus treatments.
Laser toenail fungus removal – Melbourne clinic
Typically we use a laser for toenail fungus removal because it’s so effective. Laser toenail fungus removal usually takes about half an hour, but you’ll need to come back for several sessions, usually at four-weekly intervals.
You will tend to see results within 6-12 months, just because nails grow so slowly – clear, non-infected nail will start to appear gradually over time. During laser toenail fungus removal treatments, you can expect to feel warmth on your toes, but no pain. Most people experience at least some improvement in their toenail fungus from laser toenail fungus removal, but ongoing care at home is also important. Recurrent or ongoing infection is a problem.
About fingernail and toenail fungus
All nail fungus starts as a white or yellow smudge under a nail – that can be toenails or fingernails – caused by a fungus. The same, fungus, in fact, that causes tinea (athlete’s foot) between toes, but that fungus is not the only one – it can be any fungus or mould. The fungus goes deeper into the nail bed, causing your nails to start to change colour or become crumbly or brittle. Nail fungus may only affect one nail, or it might affect many. It doesn’t usually affect all nails on a hand or foot.
Mild fungal infections may not require treatment, but anyone with thick, brittle, discoloured nails does need treatment. Nail fungus is hardy and tends to stick around, so getting treatment early and using self-care at home is really important.
Symptoms that you have nail fungus
- Thickening nails
- Crumbling, brittle nails
- Nails change shape and become irregular and distorted
- Nail is dull, no shine to it
- Under the nail becomes discoloured by build-up of gunk
- Infection may cause the nail to separate from its bed (onycholysis)
- Your nails may smell bad
- Your nails may be painful
Fungi don’t need any light, and live in warm, moist environments. (They love the changing room showers and camp showers, since they are so often wet, which is why it is recommended that you always wear flip flops in public showers.) Fungi can enter your skin via a small opening, including the tiniest of gaps between your toenail and nailbed. This is exacerbated if your hands are often wet and warm – there is no die-off period, so the fungi are allowed to just keep on multiplying.
Toenail fungus versus fingernail fungus
Humans get more toenail fungus than fingernail fungus for several reasons, but the major tipping factor is that our feet are constantly wrapped up in sweaty, dark socks and shoes. Our own immune system doesn’t have such good access to the crevices in our toenails, so it’s harder for our body to fight the onslaught.
Why do some people get toenail fungus more than others?
There are a few factors we know increase your risk of getting toenail fungus that needs treatment. These include lowered blood flow, for example as we get older – nails grow slower and therefore the fungus has a longer brewing time. Sweating a lot can also contribute, since it keeps your feet wetter for longer.
If you work in a humid environment with oft-wet hands (bars, cleaning), or wear socks that don’t ‘breathe’, you’re also at risk. Being around people with nail fungus means you are more likely to get it. We know that men with a family history of nail fungus are more likely to have it, which is most likely just the fungus being passed around the family. Wet communal areas harbour fungi, like swimming pools, change rooms and gyms.
If you already have tinea or athlete’s foot, or other toenail fungus, you are more likely to see this infection spread up into the nail bed. Psoriasis can also increase your risks, but so can having diabetes, poor circulation, or poor immunity, and we also see more toenail fungus in children with Down’s syndrome.
Diabetes and toenail fungus
You will probably see your doctor first and be referred to a dermatologist, but you don’t have to wait. You can make an appointment with a dermatologist anytime you like to have your toenail fungus treatments applied immediately.
At your appointment, your dermatologist will examine your nails, and may do tests by scraping some of your nail to see what it is exactly via the lab. Psoriasis can actually look like toenail fungus, so being clear about what the trouble is, is important.
Toenail fungus treatments – Melbourne clinic
One of the things pharmacies seem to be advertising a lot of these days is toenail fungus treatment. You see those big ugly toenails in great detail in their windows. These treatments are usually the first port of call, but they don’t necessarily do the trick. Prescription drugs and laser treatments may be the next option.
Toenail fungus treatments – medication – Melbourne clinic
You may start you off with oral antifungal drugs. The new nail can grow free from infection, which over time grows in place of the infected nail. This means you won’t see the treatment work for at least 6-12 months, as the nail grows out. You only take these medications for a few months.
People over age 65 tend to not respond quite as well to antifungals, but we always tend to combine treatments anyway – no point waiting for another year to go by.
Side effects from oral antifungals cannot be overlooked, as they could range from a rash to liver issues. Blood tests may need to be conducted every so often to check everything is ok. Some people won’t be able to take this as a toenail fungus treatment.
Toenail fungus treatments – medicated nail polish – Melbourne clinic
There is a special nail polish on the market called ciclopirox (Penlac) which is painted on your infected nails and surrounding skin every day for a week, then you rub it off with alcohol and start again. This can go on for a year.
Toenail fungus treatments – medicated nail cream – Melbourne clinic
Antifungal cream may be prescribed, rubbed into your nail and nail bed after soaking your hands in water. The nail may need to be treated first to make penetration of the cream easier.
Toenail fungus treatments – surgical removal of the nail – Melbourne clinic
In some cases, the nail infection may be so deep or painful that it is recommended that your entire nail be removed so the infection can be treated before the new nail grows. Medication either topically or orally may be used in conjunction with this treatment.
Toenail fungus treatments – laser and light therapies – Melbourne clinic
Laser toenail fungus removal has been tested and shown to be quite useful for treating nail fungus. One in particular, the CO2 laser, with medicated antifungal cream, has been shown as the leader in laser toenail fungus removal.
Helping yourself at home
There are certain things you can do at home to help get rid of toenail fungus while you are being treated.
- When you notice any white spots on the nails, file them off and immediately use an anti-fungal cream
- Make sure you treat your athlete’s foot or any other easily-treated fungal or bacterial infections
- Keep your feet and toes really clean and dry
- Urea can be used to thin nails out to give better access to anti-fungal creams
- Keep your nails short and your hands dry
- Wear good, absorbent socks that wick moisture away from your feet (nylon, wool, polypropylene)
- If you sweat a lot, change your socks regularly
- If you can, wear open toe shoes more often
- Get rid of old shoes that could be harbouring fungus or give them a good antifungal rinse (with rubber gloves on!)
- Wear rubber gloves if you have your hands in water a lot
- Keep the skin around your nails intact, so don’t pick or bite or cut it
- Always wear shoes in public places, especially wet public areas
- Make sure anywhere you get your nails treated is very sanitary
- Don’t wear fake nails or nail polish – this can trap fungus
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