by Brad Hayman, DPM, Complete Foot & Ankle Care
Toenail fungus is a common problem affecting many people with discolored, thickened and brittle toenails. It is most commonly caused by a specific group of fungi called dermatophytes.
This infection can be the result of a family history of susceptibility to the infection; increased age; certain health conditions such as diabetes; nail trauma; or an exposure to another person with either athlete’s foot and/or nail fungus.
While nail fungus is generally thought to be an unsightly and annoying problem, it should be treated as a medical condition. A fungal nail culture can confirm the diagnosis.
With this in mind, many “treatments” have been suggested over the years including soaking the nails in vinegar, applying Vicks VapoRub, application of bleach, taking an oral antifungal, removing the nail(s) and many other, often questionable therapies.
While oral antifungals such at terbinafine and Diflucan can be effective, each has potential serious side effects. Topical treatment such as Tolnaftate 1% is effective in controlling the infection but has a relatively low “cure” potential.
Because the fungi lives under and inside of the toenail, most topical treatments have difficulty getting to the source of the infection.
Laser therapy (PinPointe) is now available to treat the fungal nail infection. Combined with topical treatment this provides the best chance of improving the nail appearance and promoting new clear nail growth.