Many people don’t realize they have a toenail fungus infection until the condition has already settled in. Moreover, many people don’t seek treatment and choose to ignore the problem in hopes that it simply “goes away”. Still, fungal toenail infections are a common foot health problem and affect nearly 40% of the US population at some point. Such infections can continue for years without ever causing pain. The condition, characterized by a change in the color or texture of a nail, is often considered nothing more than a mere blemish, but it can present serious problems if left untreated.
Also referred to as onychomycosis, fungal nail infections are an infection underneath the surface of the nail, which can also penetrate the nail. In addition to causing difficulty and pain when walking or running, fungal nail infections are often accompanied by a secondary bacterial and/or yeast infection in or about the nail plate.
A group of fungi called dermophytes easily attack the nail, thriving off keratin, the nail’s protein substance. When the tiny organisms take hold, the nail may become thicker, yellowish-brown or darker in color, and foul smelling. Debris may collect beneath the nail plate, white marks frequently appear on the nail plate, and the infection is capable of spreading to other toenails, the skin, or even the fingernails.
Blemishes, cuts or open wounds may make the nail more susceptible to all types of infection, including fungal infection. Those who suffer chronic diseases, such as diabetes, circulatory problems, or immune-deficiency conditions, are especially prone to fungal nails. Other contributory factors may be a history of athlete’s foot and excessive perspiration.
Depending on the type of infection you have, topical toenail fungus treatments are often the most favorable option since they are less expensive and very easy to use compared with other solutions. An oral medication may need to be prescribed if the infection hasn’t been treated in awhile and the fungal condition is severe. In some cases, surgical treatment is prescribed, during which the infected nail is removed. Permanent removal of a chronically painful nail, which has not responded to any other treatment, permits the fungal infection to be cured, and prevents the return of a deformed nail.
In any case, it is of critical importance to begin treating your nail fungus infection the moment it is detected. The longer an infection is allowed to stay undisturbed, the more likely it will become severe and very difficult to treat.