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Family Foot & Ankle

Fending Off Toenail Fungus

According to Greek mythology, Pandora was the first human female created by the gods. Pandora was given a beautiful box as a wedding gift, but told not to open it under any circumstances. Of course, her curiosity got the better of her, but her decision released evil into the world for the first time. She tried to close it, but it was too late.

If you have toenail fungus, you might feel a little like Pandora. A small break in the skin, an ingrown toenail, or a day in rain-soaked shoes was all the opportunity the infection needed to get past your body’s defenses and set up—what seems like permanent—shop under your nails.

Fortunately, all is not hopeless. It may take time, but we can help you put that stubborn fungus back in its box for good.

All Evil Escaped

The fungus that causes this condition loves warm and moist environments like pools and showers, and can spread easily. If you are frequently exposed to damp conditions, especially if you go barefoot or have any breaks in your skin, you are at increased risk.

Once the infection is let loose into your toenails, it begins to alter their shape and color. Common symptoms include yellowish discoloration, thickening, and warping or distortion of the nail. It may also seem brittle or crumbly, and may even emit a foul odor. Although the condition can be painless for many years, it is unsightly and often very embarrassing. In addition, if unchecked for too long, it can cause complications such as skin infections, especially if you have diabetes or any other disease that suppresses immunity.

Getting the Fungus Back in the Box

You may find that at-home treatment options, such as regularly trimming and thinning your nails and applying topical antifungals, can provide at least partial improvement, especially if the condition is less severe. Of course, proper hygiene and keeping your feet clean and dry at all times will help prevent the condition from worsening.

In most cases, oral antifungals are usually the most effective treatment. They can have some side effects, though, so Family Foot and Ankle Center will make a full evaluation before prescribing any medication. Like Pandora’s evils, toenail fungus is stubborn—it’ll probably take a few months to cure the infection, and many months after that for the ugly nail to completely grow away. But with patience and dedication, the damage is usually reversible.

Keeping the Lid Closed

Because toenail fungus is resilient and takes a long time to fully clear up and grow out, prevention is always the best strategy. This is especially true if you’ve already had toenail fungus (or have another fungal infection such as athlete’s foot), as re-infection is common.

Wash your feet every day and dry thoroughly before putting on fresh, clean, dry socks and shoes. Antifungal sprays or powders on feet and in shoes are a good idea, too. Don’t go barefoot in public, especially in damp areas—always wear sandals or shower shoes.

If the problem keeps returning again and again, or the new nail is still deformed after growing back in, you may consider having us remove the nail entirely and block it from returning. Most people choose this only as a last resort, however.

Seeking Help

In the Greek myth, only Hope remained in the box after the evil had escaped. Toenail fungus can be a pain to treat, but there is hope, too. Call Family Foot and Ankle Center at (513) 728-4800 or (859) 282-1572 to set up an appointment at one of our six Greater Cincinnati offices in Ohio and Northern Kentucky. Even if you’ve had ugly fungal toenails for many years, there is still time. Come and see what our experts can do for your feet.

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.