Toenail fungus; who on Earth wants to admit that they have toenail fungus? It’s embarrassing, right? However, it’s surprisingly common.
Many people can have the condition without even knowing, and if you suspect you’re one of these cases, it is fairly easy to diagnose.
To help relieve the issue, we’ve listed here all you need to know about toenail fungus, possible treatments, the types of doctors who deal with toenail fungus, and what happens if you don’t see a doctor when you really should.
- 1 So, What Exactly is Toenail Fungus?
- 2 Do I Need to See a Toenail Fungus Doctor?
- 3 How Do You Know When to See a Toenail Fungus Doctor?
So, What Exactly is Toenail Fungus?
Toenail fungus is an infection of the toenails, also called onychomycosis (on-ih-koh-my-KOH-sis). In reality, it can affect both your fingernails and your toenails, though is much more common in toenails.
The fungus can also spread from your nails and nail beds to the skin between your toes. This is called athlete’s foot, and similarly, toenail fungus can be caused by athlete’s foot.
What Causes Toenail Fungus?
It can happen to anyone at any age but is much more common in older adults. As a person ages, their nails become ever more brittle and dry, which leads to cracks in the nails that bacteria and detritus can enter through.
Toenail fungus is also caused by warm, wet environments. If you walk around with wet shoes or go without footwear when navigating public bathrooms or showers, this can lead to foot fungus issues.
Signs and Symptoms of Toenail Fungus
Toenail fungus starts as a white or yellow spot at the tip of the nail, which then spreads backwards into the nail. The more the infection spreads, the more discolored the nail can become.
The nail will get thicker, and begin to flake and crumble at the edges, becoming ragged and distorting in shape. It will also become darker as debris builds up under the nail, and will start emanating a slightly foul smell. The greater these symptoms, the worse your case.
These infections can range from simple discoloration to mild irritation, to severe and painful. They can be contained in a single nail, or they can spread to the surrounding ones as well.
Can You Treat Toenail Fungus at Home?
Luckily, there are many at-home remedies for toenail fungus. These include a number of over-the-counter antifungal nail creams and ointments.
- Vick’s VapoRub.
- Snakeroot Extract.
- Oregano Oil.
- Tea Tree Extract.
- Olive Leaf Extract.
- Ozonized Oils.
- A simple change of diet.
Do I Need to See a Toenail Fungus Doctor?
However, if you’ve tried these home remedies and you’re noticing a marked increase or a lack of improvement in your symptoms, it is recommended you visit a doctor. Especially if the nail becomes painful.
If you are a person suffering from low circulation, a weakened immune system, and/or diabetes, it is also highly recommended that you skip the at-home treatments and go straight to seeing a foot fungus doctor, as you are at a higher risk of severe complications.
What Happens If You Don’t See a Doctor for Toenail Fungus?
Severe toenail fungus can lead to some serious issues, especially if you already have the pre-existing conditions listed above.
Toenail fungus, if left untreated, can lead to permanent disfiguration of the nail and infections that spread to other areas of the body, such as foot ulcers or even bacterial cellulitis of the leg.
Bacterial cellulitis is a skin infection, characterized by a red, swollen area that is hot to the touch. This can quickly spread to other tissues below the affected area and into the bloodstream. If left untreated, it can become life-threatening.
Your feet carry you throughout your life. Why not take good care of them?
Is There a Toenail Fungus Doctor?
There isn’t any one doctor that specializes in foot fungus. There are, however, doctors that specialize in feet! They are called podiatrists, who have trained to specifically deal with any and all issues regarding your feet.
It is also possible to be sent to a dermatologist, who specializes in skin issues.
You can also go to your general practitioner, but there is a possibility they’ll refer you to a specialist anyway. It’s also possible you may be referred to an internal medicine specialist, as these are doctors who specialize in adult diseases.
If You See a Doctor, What Will Your Treatment Be?
When you see your toenail fungus doctor, there may be a few treatments they recommend or prescribe; some of which are more pleasant than others. It all depends on the kind of fungus you have, as well as how severe your case is.
The doctor may have to take samples, which would be sent off to a lab to determine exactly what kind of fungus you have. So, be prepared for multiple doctor visits.
Your doctor may prescribe oral antifungal drugs or topical antifungal therapies. Sometimes, combining the two types of treatment has more success than one alone.
Oral antifungal drugs are generally taken for six to twelve weeks, but most of the time, you won’t see any positive results until the nail has completely grown out.
There are also medicated nail polishes and medicated nail creams that can be prescribed, but the nail polish can take up to a year to deliver results.
In the most severe of cases, surgery to temporarily remove the nail might be recommended. This is so the doctor can treat the fungal infection under the nail directly.
If the infection is severe enough, the doctor might recommend the permanent removal of the nail.
How Do You Know When to See a Toenail Fungus Doctor?
For the reasons listed above, it is highly recommended to visit a doctor as soon as you start to feel any discomfort.
Don’t try to stick it out! It’s always better to be safe than sorry. Staying healthy is very important, especially for the body parts that carry you around!
Do you have any tips on seeing your doctor for toenail fungus?