Arizona spring means sandals, swimwear, and bare toes. Some of us may be concerned about discolored or otherwise unsightly toenails. What makes those funny nails turn so funky? There are a variety of possibilities including; a particular systemic disease, trauma, and most commonly a fungal infection. In fact the incidence of fungal nails (onychomycosis) has been increasing and is related to diabetes, a suppressed immune system, and increasing age. Adults are 30 times more likely to have onychomycosis than children. In fact, only 2.6% of children younger than 18 years are reported to have onychomycosis, but as many as 90% of elderly people have onychomycosis.
Fungal nails are simply a fungal infection in one or more of your nails. Although there are many types the infection most commonly starts with a small spot that is yellow or white that can spread under or through the entire nail if left untreated. Letting the infection go unchecked can lead to symptoms such as a nail that is thickened, brittle, crumbly or ragged. Nails can become distorted in shape, dull, and even develop a dark color. We have seen nails get so thick that it is painful for patients to wear a normal pair of walking shoes. Some patients may feel pain in their toes or fingertips and detect a slightly foul odor.
What can be done to prevent such an uncomfortable and unsightly infection? The mainstay in prevention of any type of infection is to practice diligent hand and (certainly in this case) foot hygiene. Keep your nails short, dry and clean, fungi thrive in dark, warm, moist environments. Wear socks that wick moisture away from the skin and always use a fresh pair each day or after an activity. Use an antifungal spray or powder by spraying or dusting your feet and the insides of your shoes. Don’t go barefoot in public places such as pools and locker rooms. Give up nail polish and artificial nails. Although it may be tempting to hide nail fungal infections under a coat of pretty pink polish, this can trap unwanted moisture, darken the environment and thus worsen the infection.
If you have a discolored toenail please call to schedule an appointment with Dr. Jay Larson at Sole Foot And Ankle Specialists. We see these discolored and sometimes disfigured toenails every day. It is critically important to identify the cause. We can do this by inspection, nail sample analysis with a microscope, or sending a sample to the lab for further testing. Once the cause is identified, we can decide on a treatment plan. Treatment plans include topical medication, oral antifungal medications and laser treatment. Since every foot is different, we will work with you every step of the way to indentify the best option for you.