Help! I’ve Got Ugly Toenails!

Sandal weather is upon us. For some, this can bring up mixed emotions. We all like warm weather and sandals, but for those with ugly toenails, it can be a source of embarrassment and angst. 

Many times, this can be caused by a fungal infection called onychomycosis. Fungus loves our feet as it thrives in a dark, moist environment. The fungus has everything it needs to thrive as your feet become its unsuspecting host. The same fungus that causes Athlete’s Foot can make its way into the toenails. This becomes a greater challenge to treat as topical medication has a hard time penetrating into the nail plate. What can we do!

Step 1. Change the environment. 

If fungus likes dark and moist, then change the environment to light and dry! This is where sandals can be a benefit. Treat your shoes with antifungal spray.  Open up the shoe to allow air and sunlight in and don’t wear the same shoes everyday. 

Your socks are important too. Spend a little extra on moisture wicking socks that will help keep your feet dry.

Be cautious in public places. Especially In a hotel rooms, public swimming pools and locker rooms. You don’t have to be an athlete to get athlete’s foot!

Step 2. Treat the skin

Fungal infections often start on the skin and then jump to the nails. The fancy name for fungus is dermatophytes which means “lover of skin.”  Again, do not encourage these organisms to live on your body.  You can discourage them by keeping your feet clean and dry and treating your shoes with antifungal spray or even Lysol.  For those folks who tend to get repeated fungal infections, applying an over-the-counter athlete’s foot cream once or twice a week can be helpful.

Step 3.  Treat the toenails

As previously mentioned, treating a fungal infection in the toenail is much more challenging than the skin.  It is very difficult for medication to penetrate into the nail plate therefore it is often necessary to use topical medication for 3-12 months.  Trim and file the nails frequently to allow medication to penetrate the nail more effectively. It is important to monitor your toenails for changes in color and thickness.  Topical medication has a much better chance to work if the problem is identified at an early stage. Patience and perseverance is the key!

If topical medication fails, there is a next step.  Oral medication (pills) are available to treat fungal infections of the skin and nails.  The most common medication prescribed is terbinafine.  This medication is taken once a day for 90 days.  The beauty of this medication is that it stays in the nail bed killing fungus for several months after you have finished the 90 day course.  It takes a toenail almost one year to grow out completely therefore it is important to get started on treatment as soon as possible especially if you are targeting summer sandal season.

Step 4. Toenail Restoration

If you have one or more toenails that especially unsightly, then toenail restoration may be for you.  This is the way to create a lovely toenail over the top of a diseased nail.  This is perfect for the spring and summer whether as you will have a beautiful new toenail immediately while medication is working underneath on your fungal toenail.

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