If you like walking through the forest, you’ve probably seen those fallen logs that are covered with lichen and fungi. They exist on the dead trees and some of them can be beautiful in their own way. There is nothing beautiful about another type of toenail fungus, however. That’s the one that lives under the hard nail tissue on your toes and turns them dark and crumbly.
The Origin of Toenail Fungus
Toenail fungus is caused by a group of fungi called dermatophytes that live in dark, airless, damp places. That can describe where your toes reside much of the day—inside dark, damp, airless shoes. The microorganisms are picked up from contact with surfaces contaminated by someone with the infection. You can contract the infection walking barefoot in showers or saunas or on pool decks, or from sharing towels, bedding, socks, or shoes with an infected person.
The fungus feeds off dead, dry skin, but can find the tiniest opening between skin and nail and move in, feeding on the nail tissue. This causes the nail to become yellowed or discolored and thick or brittle. It can also cause a bad odor.
How a Nail Laser Treats Toenail Fungus
The conditions poses a conundrum for podiatrists. There are mainly three options, and each has benefits and drawbacks. In the early stages we may have you try over-the-counter topical medications. These are cost effective, easy to use, and kill fungus on the surface. Unfortunately, the medication cannot penetrate to attack the fungus once it is growing underneath the nail.
Oral medications deliver the medication through your bloodstream, but has its own issues related to side effects. Your liver function will need to be tested periodically while on the medication, and the treatment may last 6 weeks to 3 months.
A new treatment modality is fungal nail laser treatment. These concentrated light beams penetrate through the nail keratin to the fungus underneath, and the microorganisms are vaporized and destroyed without harming healthy skin around them. The main problems are that this therapy does not yet have enough scientific proof to back up its claims. However, it has no known side effects so may be safer than oral antifungal medication. It can be costly and is usually not covered by insurance.
Three things to remember: 1) nail fungus is a chronic condition and may return after treatment, 2) we may need to try a combination of treatment types to attack the problem, and 3) the results won’t be visible until the new healthy nail grows out in about 4 months.
Finding Help for a Tough Toenail Fungus Infection in Warren, Hillsborough and South Plainfield, New Jersey
Dr. Jyotsna Thapar at Ankle and Foot Specialist of New Jersey will work with you to determine how serious your fungal nail problem is and what method(s) are best for treating it. We have seen some good results with nail laser treatments and are pleased to offer that option. We encourage those in the northern New Jersey area to contact our offices in Warren, Hillsborough and South Plainfield/Edison for an appointment. Simply call (908) 222-8980 or schedule through our website using our contact page.