As we are all aware, summer is here! With that being said, summer activities such as swimming, boot camp training, tough mudder training, etc. can be a great way to introduce fungus into your feet and toe nails.
What is fungus? When podiatrists refer to fungal nail, they mostly talk about the cutaneous (skin) infection that is caused by a group of fungi known as dermatophytes. Specifically, major cause of tinea pedis (athlete foot) and onychomycosis (fungal nail) is dermatophyte Trichophyton Rubrum, a subtype of dermatophyte. Historically, T. Rubrum was originated from West Africa. Through evolutions in decades, now T. Rubrum can be found in footwear, locker rooms or walking barefoot on a common surface shared with someone who carries untreated fungal infections from nails or tinea pedis.
How to diagnose a fungal nail? A specimen of a nail should be collected and confirmed by KOH (potassium hydroxide) preparation, culture of histology. Results from KOH test, culture or histology will give the medical professional a more conclusive of the findings whether it is onychomycosis or psoriasis, lichen planus, or trauma to the nail bed. Yellow nails are not equal to fungal nails. A method to collect a nail specimen can be a bit discomfort, tender and sometimes painful since fungus can only be found deep in the nail bed.
How to treat onychomycosis (fungal nail)? Multiple treatments ranging from conservative to surgical have been utilized depending on the severity of fungal infection, patient’s preference and medical history. Obviously, there are pro’s and con’s with whichever treatment doctor and patient decide to proceed further. Conservatively, onychomycosis can be treated with either oral pills, or topical. One of the most commonly prescribed oral pills for treating onychomycosis is Lamisil (terbinafine). It is found to be more effective than topical; however, patient can develop liver damage while taking the pill. The pill has to be taken consistently once per day for 90 days duration. The patient will be required to have blood work done to make sure he or she does not have any existing liver problems prior to taking the pill. Then another blood work is required to be taken after 45 days into the course of treatment, and then after 90 days. The patient must provide a clear medical history to the medical professional before taking Lamisil. Surgically, the laser has been found to be more effective, less invasive and less painful. A minor but common procedure that is typically done right in the office is total nail avulsion with chemical matrixectomy is also well utilized by podiatrists. The only thing to look out for post procedure is a mild drainage (clear, yellow or red) since phenol, a chemical used to kill the matrix, causes a 3rd degree burn at the nail bed.
Think you might have suffered from fungal nail infection? We can help. If you are located in the Monmouth/Ocean county area make an appointment today at Affiliated and Foot and Ankle Center located in Howell NJ to have one of our foot and ankle specialists help care for your fungal nail infection. Don’t let fungal nail infections ruin your summer fun!