Fungal Nail Specialist in New Jersey
What are fungal nails?
Fungal nails, also known as onychomycosis, occurs when one or more nails are infected by fungi. Infected nails will often appear yellow or display other changes in color, texture, or thickness. You may be more prone to fungal nails if you smoke, if fungal nails are common in your family, or if you have a weak immune system, diabetes, or athlete’s foot. Men and older adults, along with people who engage in water-based activities or have sustained a toenail injury, are also more likely to contract a fungus of the nails.
What causes fungal nails?
Fungal nails occur when a fungus or fungi infect a toenail, usually through a break in the nail or the skin around the nail. A nail that is detached from the nail bed may also leave room for fungi to enter beneath the nail and grow. Most nail infections are caused by a family of fungi known as dermatophytes, which need keratin in order to grow. Because fungi flourish best in warm, moist temperatures, areas such as locker rooms, shared showers, and pool floors can be perfect breeding grounds for fungi to grow and potentially infect your nails. Toenail infections may also be caused by yeast and mold.
Environmental factors that may increase your risk of fungal nails may include:
- Direct skin contact with a person that has a fungal infection
- Direct contact with unsterilized, infected items e.g., towels, nail clippers
- Direct injury or trauma to the nail
- Spending extended durations of time in water or wet, moist areas e.g., saunas
- Wearing tight shoes, boots, or footwear that prevents the feet from breathing
- Wearing wet or moist shoes or socks
- Smoking, which can cause weak blood circulation
Medical conditions that may increase your risk of fungal nails may include:
- Athlete’s foot
- Previous nail infections
- Poor circulation
- Weak immune system
What are the symptoms of fungal nails?
Because fungus can spread from nail to nail, and, in some cases, to other parts of the body, knowing what symptoms to look out for can aid in early detection and treatment before spreading occurs. Symptoms of fungal nails may include:
- Nail discoloration e.g., yellow or brown toenail surface
- Nail begins to detach from the nail bed
- Soft, dry, and brittle toenails
- Buildup of debris beneath the toenail
- Thick toenails
- Splitting or deterioration of the nail
How are fungal nails diagnosed?
If you are experiencing any of the above symptoms or believe your toenail has been infected by fungus, an evaluation by an experienced doctor can help confirm a diagnosis. During the medical examination, your doctor will view and assess the affected nail, as well as surrounding skin and all other nails. To help confirm a definite diagnosis, your doctor may also obtain nail clippings, light skin scrapings, and matter from beneath the nail. The collected samples will be sent to a lab where they can be viewed beneath a microscope in order to identify the cause of symptoms.
Can fungal nails lead to complications if left untreated?
Left untreated, nail fungus can spread to surrounding nails, as well as the fingernails and other areas of the body.
How are fungal nails treated?
Treatment of fungal nails ranges from topical applications to surgical solutions. Depending on the severity of the infection, treatment will vary. Treatment options may include:
- Topical creams to apply to the affected areas
- Nail polish solutions to apply to the affected areas
- Oral medications to help cure infection beneath the nails
- Combination therapy of oral and topical medication
- Nonsurgical removal of the nail using a chemical application
- Surgical removal of the entire nail to help clear the infection
If the above treatment options are ineffective or causing unwanted side effects, laser therapy may be an appropriate treatment alternative. At Northeastern Foot & Ankle, we specialize in the utilization of laser therapy to help treat fungal nails. Laser therapy, which uses light energy to reach the nail bed to help destroy unwanted infection, has minimum side effects, requires no surgical aftercare, and may be more effective than oral and topical solutions.
If you are experiencing symptoms of fungal nails or would like to learn more about our available podiatric services and treatment, request an appointment with us today. Our friendly and accommodating staff provides prompt and punctual service and is dedicated to providing high-end, compassionate podiatric care. At Northeastern Foot & Ankle, board-certified podiatrist Dr. Khoury takes the time to carefully listen to and understand your medical and cosmetic concerns, recommending and providing the most appropriate treatment options paired with innovative and emerging technologies to help meet your podiatric needs. Call 973.473.6665 or scroll to the top of the page to request an appointment.