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Family Foot & Ankle

How to Get Rid of Fungal Toenails—For Good

Few conditions are as frustrating as fungal toenails.

Sure, in the grand scheme of things, they may seem like a lower priority condition. They usually don’t cause any physical pain, nor are they considered medically dangerous for most healthy people (except in rare circumstances).

But if you happen to have one, you understand just how aggravating they can be, for at least three really big reasons:

  • They’re ugly, unsightly, and often embarrassing. Fear of exposing their toenails keeps millions of Americans from enjoying open-toed footwear, trips to the pool or beach, the salon, and other social activities.

  • They don’t go away on their own, and can be very tough (and very time consuming) to treat effectively.

  • Even if you do manage to get rid of them, they can easily come back if you don’t take steps to prevent them. And you’re right back to square one.

Regardless of how long or how many times you’ve had fungal toenails, we can bet you’re probably sick of dealing with them. You may have even lost hope that you’ll ever get those healthy, clear nails back.

But good news—there’s hope! Although fungal infections can be extremely hardy, our team will help provide the full-court press needed to eradicate them—and the support you need to keep them away.

Step 1: Treating the Initial Infection

If you’ve been disappointed by previous attempts to clear up the infection at home, we sympathize—but we can’t say we’re surprised, either. Toenail fungi have some built-in advantages that make them tough to eradicate.

One, they’ve got all the keratin they need and more, so they aren’t going to run out of “food.”

Two, the nail itself provides a great shield against topical medications.

Three, relatively slow circulation in the toes reduces the effectiveness of oral medications.

Toenail fungus often needs to be attacked from several different angles, under the guidance of a foot specialist, before it ultimately succumbs to the treatment.

So, the first thing to do is come see us for an appointment. We’ll likely want to biopsy a small sample of your toenail to confirm that it really is fungus. There are a few other types of conditions that can cause thick, grody toenails, and if yours happen to be caused by something other than a fungal infection, antifungal treatments are going to do you more harm than good!

Once we’ve confirmed the diagnosis, most likely we’ll start you on a temporary regimen of prescription-strength oral antifungal pills, typically lasting about 12 weeks.

Oral medications are still the most effective, scientifically vetted treatment option, but it’s important to understand that they aren’t for everyone. Because they can occasionally trigger certain side effects, they may not be recommend for people with liver problems. We may schedule a few checkups during the treatment process to confirm that the pills are working properly and not causing you any trouble.

In addition to (or instead of) oral antifungals, we may also provide strong topical antifungals for you to apply directly to the nail and surrounding skin. While the nail itself does make a frustrating obstacle to topical treatments, they can and do work given enough time and discipline. When combined with oral medications, you can start to see better results sooner.

Topical antifungals also have the advantage of being far less likely to produce any significant side effects.

We won’t lie—it’ll take a little while to see optimal results. The unfortunate reality is that, even once the fungi itself have all been eliminated, much of the damage they caused to your nails will still remain. You may have to wait several months for new, healthy, clear nail tissue to grow in and replace the damaged portion.

That said, with a little patience and determination, your odds of eventual success are very good!

Step 2: Keeping Fungal Toenails From Coming Back

Here’s the thing about fungal toenail infections. The same factors that led you to develop the initial infection in the first place can just as easily cause a second one, or a third one, or a fourth … you get the idea.

As frustrating as even one case of fungal toenails can be, getting it again—after you spent all that time eradicating it in the first place—can be crushing, if not infuriating.

We’re guessing you want to avoid going down (or back down) that path. That means you need to keep playing defense and practice smart preventative care on an ongoing basis.

What does that look like? Here’s the basic rundown.

  • Wash your feet every day with soap and water. Don’t ignore them when you take your shower!
  • Use antifungal sprays or powders regularly, both on your feet and inside your shoes. Don’t give fungi the opportunity to set up shop!
  • Change out of damp socks or shoes immediately.
  • Rotate your shoes on a day-to-day basis so they can air out completely before you wear them again.
  • Treat any fungal skin infection (athlete’s foot, ringworm, etc.) you develop immediately. They are caused by the exact same types of fungi as fungal nails, and can easily spread there.
  • Avoid going barefoot in public or shared spaces, especially those that are typically dark or humid. At the very least, always have a pair of flip flops or shower shoes handy to provide that extra layer of protection.
  • Don’t share nail and skin care tools with anyone else, and clean them thoroughly between uses.

That may seem like a long list, but really, it’s all very quick and simple stuff that will become automatic before you know it!

And of course, if there are any other specific recommendations we have that are especially relevant to your situation, we’ll share them with you at your appointment. We want to make sure you have all the information and tools you need to keep toenails clear for the long haul!

If you’re sick of your fungal toenails, give Family Foot & Ankle Center a call today. The earlier you seek intervention, the sooner, more complete, and longer-lasting your results are likely to be. You can schedule at any of our convenient office locations in Ohio or Kentucky by dialing (513) 728-4800 or fill out our online contact form.

Dr. Cynthia Miller
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Dr. Cynthia Miller is a board certified podiatrist who has been established in the Cincinnati area since 2004.
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