How to Treat Fungal Toenail Infections
Each day we speak to many clients about fungal toenail infections (onychomycosis) and it often shocks them to learn these infections are contagious and can be spread to other family members.
This often difficult to treat condition affects up to 1.6 million Australians every year and is caused by an overgrowth of fungus on, in, or under the nails.
Fungal toenail infections are contagious and difficult to treat at home
Onychomycosis is more typical in toenails as we commonly enclose them in a shoe which encourages a warm, dark humid environment that allows the fungus to flourish.
Fungal nail infections often develop after a minor trauma occurs to the nail which damages the structure of the nail.
Once the nail is damaged, it is then very easy for the fungus to get into the nail and start to do what it does very well: compost your toenail!
These infections can cause the nail to become very painful and may serve as a reservoir for fungal skin infections and increase the risk for bacterial skin and further nail infections.
What Do Fungal Toenails Look Like?
Infected nails demonstrate some or all of the following characteristics:
- discolouration (white, yellow or brown streaks)
- changes to the nail shape
- the nail may breakdown and fall off
- a distinct odour can accompany the infection
How Do I Know If I Have a Fungal Nail Infection?
Typically, fungal nail infections can be easily diagnosed in the clinic by the appearance, changes and odour of the toenail.
Your Podiatrist will be able to examine your toenail for clinical signs and symptoms of a fungal nail infection.
At Complete Podiatry, we also offer a specialist in-clinic fungal nail test called Diafactory.
Diafactory testing of nails is sensitive to 99% of fungal pathogens
The Diafactory fungal nail test has a sensitivity of 97% with means it will pick up 97 out of 100 fungal toenail infections in the clinic.
Are You Prone to Fungal Nail Infections?
Some people are more prone to developing nail infections than others.
People with diabetes, poor circulation, medical conditions causing immune compromise or those who are over the age of 65 are all more likely to develop fungal infections.
As are people who regularly use public pools or who regularly use artificial nails or nail varnish and those who have had an injury to the nail or skin about the nail.
How Do We Treat Fungal Nail Infections
The aim of treatment for a fungal nail infection is to kill or remove the fungus from the toenail and allow a healthy nail to regrow.
When you have had a fungal nail infection there is a possibility of permanent damage to the nail growth point of the nail if the fungus has been present for a long time or is particularly severe.
There are really only 3 evidence-based options for the management of fungal nail infections:
1. Nail Paints
Many topical nail paints are rather ineffective in the treatment of fungal nail infections. Different topical agents work differently on different people so you may need to try a range of these till you find one that works for you.
There is evidence to suggest some anti-fungal tablets have cure rates ranging from 38-68%. This treatment has been associated with a range of potentially serious side effects however including liver failure and sensory loss.
3. Laser or Light Therapy
At Complete Podiatry, we pride ourselves on investing in the best, most advanced proven treatment techniques for our clients.
The Lunula Laser Anti-Fungal Nail Treatment Laser can be used in the treatment of all fungal nail infections.
The Lunula Laser stimulates your immune system and blood flow to enable your nails to grow clear and healthy.
The laser light passes through the nail without causing damage to it or the surrounding skin.
Safe and effective, the Lunula Laser poses none of the risks and harmful side effects of anti-fungal medications.
The Lunula Laser combines two wavelengths concurrently, a 405nm blue laser that provides an antimicrobial effect and a 635nm red laser that stimulates the immune system, blood flow and nutrient delivery to the infected area.
The blue laser penetrates down as far as the germinal matrix and can treat under the proximal nail fold, and the red laser stimulates even deeper into the toes and feet.
The Lunula Laser Treatment System Effectively treats fungal nail infections
Cure rates from 85-95% have been reported with these systems.
We have found this to be the most effective treatment for superficial and moderate fungal nail infections.
We are here to help
If you are experiencing changes in your nails and are worried it might be a fungal nail infection, the first thing to do is book an appointment with one of the Podiatrists at Complete Podiatry for a comprehensive assessment to identify what is causing the changes in your nails.
Once this is done, we will develop a structured management plan that outlines our best advice for how to help you to return to doing the things you love to do without needing to worry about your fungal nail infections.
I'll love to talk to you about how we can help you build an amazing life from the feet up!
Director of Complete Podiatry