Tales Of Toenails: The Fungus Among Us

There’s a rather sizable list of things that shouldn’t be brought up in a dinner conversation – and your toenail fungus is one of them. We all know what it looks like when your nails are under attack by little nasty organisms that settle in for the long haul – the thick, misshapen nail- Yuck! Flaky and rough surface – Gross! And we can’t forget that icky yellowing- Ugh! Obvious observations aside, nail fungus goes deeper than just the surface.

According to the Mayo Clinic in 2015, nail fungus can manifest itself as a small yellow or white spot under the tip of the nail all the way to full Frankenstein mode. This condition, also known as onychomycosis, is not particularly dangerous in a mild case, but can cause discomfort in a severe situation.

So you think you may have nail fungus? Well, how in the world did that happen? I shower every day!

The answer to that is, it’s easier than you think. Think about it- Fungus, like mold and mushrooms, love to live in dark, moist environments- like shoes, generally growing in between small separations- like toenails. This makes toenails the ideal environment to culture up some yummy toe-shrooms.

There are tons of other risk factors that exist, most being linked to heavier perspiration and older age (lower circulation), but everyone can develop some degree of nail fungus at some point in their life and it not be indicative of a lifestyle or directly linked to a risk factor. Even trying on shoes after someone with a case of nail fungus could put you at risk.

Not to scare anyone away from going shoe shopping, but if you wear shoes, go outside barefoot, or participate in sports, at some point in your life you are likely to contract nail fungus and you can have it throughout your lifetime.

Ok, so you’ve caught me, I’ve got a little mild case of toenail fungus, what can I do about it? I’m too embarrassed to bring this up to my doctor and it really doesn’t hurt. No worries, it’s really not as bad as it seems. It’s highly treatable and nothing to be ashamed of. It’s as common as having dandruff or bad breath. There’s someone here who can explain things a little easier.

Not a cartoon fanatic? Let’s talk turkey. Onchomycosis can be caused by several different dermatophytes, which are fungi that cause infections on human skin (such as ringworm). The most common in onchomycosis is Trichophyton rubrum. After determining that an infection is indeed present, treatment methods are then planned. Most people elect to try less invasive methods first, such as topical ointments and creams. Depending on the severity of the infection, response may or not be as aggressive as you’d like.

In the event that the infection needs to be eradicated by any means necessary, oral antifungal treatments are tried. Finally, if the infection is still present, treatments such as pulse therapy, laser therapy, and possibly nail removal in tandem with other methods could be used. Keep in mind, it takes on average of 8-12 weeks for results to be seen, and it’s rather difficult for the topical solutions to adequately penetrate the nail bed, so patience is key!

At the end of the day, if you are faced with the decision of electing for treatment for nail fungus, you must ask yourself “will it be worth it in the end?” Accounting for cost, time, and possibly some discomfort, there is always a chance you can contract an infection post-treatment. Alternative ways people cope with unsightly nails is opaque colored polish (which may or may not be favorable if you are male) or just simply keeping your piggies out of sight. You can also elect to take the brave way out and flaunt your nails despite their appearance. You’ve been to a public beach in the summertime and you’ve witnessed the overweight balding man rocking the speedo. It’s sort of the same concept, just less offensive to children. The point is, you can be proud of your body and all of its fungal accessories, despite the objections of anyone’s gag reflex.

The moral of the story is this: Your options are there, it’s what you decide to do with them that makes the difference. Nail fungus is rarely a severe complication, so the decision is a light one. Determine which course of action makes you happy and go with it!

The information on this website has been assessed by Dr. Soumya Podduturi.

Dr. Soumya Podduturi is an Aesthetic Dermatologist, Dermatologist, Dermatosurgeon, Trichologist, Pediatric Dermatologist, Cosmetologist with 8 Years Experience

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