Is Your Thick, Discolored Nail Affected By a Nail Fungus?

Unless you regularly get or give yourself pedicures, you probably don’t think much about your toenails. You clip them every couple of weeks and keep them clean. 

But suddenly you notice that your nails look thicker or yellower than they used to. Or, when you cut them, they crumble.

Onychomycosis is a type of fungal infection that can affect your fingernails too, but is most common in your toenails. At AllCare Foot & Ankle Center in Arlington and Dallas, Texas, our expert podiatrists — Michael Tran, DPM, and Scott Floyd, DPM —offer the latest treatments to clear onychomycosis. Here they discuss what nail fungus is, how you got it, and why you need a podiatrist’s help to get rid of it for good.

What got under your nails

Thick, discolored, or crumbly toenails are the hallmark of onychomycosis, also known as tinea unguium. According to the Merck Manual, about one in ten adults get onychomycosis. You’re more likely to develop onychomycosis as you get older, if you’re a man, or if you have a condition such as peripheral artery disease (PAD) that slows blood circulation to your feet.

Dermatophyte fungi cause most cases of onychomycosis. However, other organisms also trigger the condition, including yeasts, such as candida albicans, and molds. You may have onychomycosis if your toenails are:

If your podiatrist suspects you have onychomycosis, they may need to examine a clipping of your nail under a microscope. They might also conduct a polymerase chain reaction (PCR) test to determine what kind of pathogen caused the infection. They also have to make sure that your abnormal nails aren’t due to another condition, such as psoriasis or bacterial infection.

How you got a fungal infection

Once your podiatrist tells you that you have onychomycosis, you may wonder how you contracted a nail infection in the first place. Onychomycosis is frequently caused by the same fungus that causes athlete’s foot. You can pick up onychomycosis if you:

The best way to prevent a nail fungal infection is to keep your feet clean and dry, only use your clean towels, and wear shower shoes or sandals at the pool, beach, or gym. Also, be sure to trim your toenails straight across, rather than on a curve. Either avoid salon pedicures, only frequent salons that sterilize tools between customers, or bring your tools to reduce the risk of infection.

How to treat a nail fungus

Nail fungus doesn’t go away on its own and gets worse if it isn’t treated. If you have a mild case of onychomycosis, such as just a white spot or two on your toenails, you may be able to use an over-the-counter (OTC) nail fungal treatment. However, if your nails don’t improve after using an OTC treatment, or if your nails are badly damaged or foul-smelling, you should see Dr. Tran or Dr. Floyd right away.

Your podiatrist may recommend an oral antifungal medication, such as fluconazole or itraconazole, which helps you clear the infection quickly. They may also debride (i.e., remove) the top, crumbly surface of your nails so that you can apply medicated nail polish or cream. If your nail is badly infected, your doctor may surgically remove it and treat the nail bed so that the new nail grows healthily and fungus-free.

If you think you have a nail fungus, contact our expert podiatrists today by phoning or booking an appointment online at the office nearest you.

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