Most people cringe when they hear the word “fungus” and rightfully so. While there are many kinds of good fungi (mushrooms, truffles, certain cheeses), there are also a lot of very bad fungi that can mean very bad things for your feet. Fungal infections can affect almost any part of the body, but fungal infections of the toenails are very common, affecting almost 10% of the population.
A fungal infection of the toenail is called onychomycosis or tinea unguium (just in case you want to impress your friends with your fancy medical lingo). These infections develop slowly and symptoms manifest as thickening of the nails with discoloration – usually yellow, green, white, or black. The nail may also become brittle and chip or crack easily. Fungus is naturally present in and on our bodies, but the buildup of this fungus is what causes these unsightly conditions. If left untreated, the fungus can build up underneath the nail and cause pain, inflammation, and foul odor.
Fungus likes to grow in moist and dark environments, meaning anyone who wears socks and shoes can be a breeding ground for infection. Making sure you wash your feet, change your socks if they get wet or sweaty, and properly clean your shoes are all important steps to avoiding fungal nail infections. The highest factor that puts you at risk is the simple process of aging. As we age, we lose some of the circulation in our feet, our nails grow slower, and we just happen to have been around fungus longer. All of these factors along with poor hygiene for our feet can contribute to the growth of a fungal infection.
The good news is, there are plenty of ways to treat it! For minor infections that are caught early, oral medications, creams, and even medicated toe nail polishes can work wonders, but are not always successful at fully eradicating the infection. This can mean a recurring infection and permanent damage to your nails. For continuing or especially severe infections, a laser is your best treatment option.
The FAAWC laser therapy boasts a 92.7% success rate. During your initial office visit, your doctor will discuss with you which treatment package is right for you. Therapies are usually spread three to four weeks apart and can be combined with medication, specialized socks, antimicrobial shoe shields, and more. For more information about your treatment options please visit http://www.faawc.com/laser-treatment.html
Let’s make sure this year that we leave the fungus in our pantries and refrigerators where it belongs and off of our feet. Change your socks often, avoid going barefoot in damp communal places (such as swimming pools), and most importantly, come see your podiatrist if you think you make have a fungal nail infection.