The one thing a lot of my patients could use when they come to us with toenail fungus (aka mycotic nails) is a time machine.
We can still provide effective treatment even when a case of fungal toenails is severe. But it is a more difficult task to treat and will require a lot more time and effort than addressing this in the early stages.
Unfortunately, since Doc Emmett Brown is not around, that option is out. (Bonus points for those that got the Back to the Future reference.) That means your best strategy is going to be starting your treatment early!
But what is early? Let’s take a look at that.
The Thick, the Bad, and the Ugly
When most people come to the office for mycotic nails for the first time, they’re already in the third and most severe stage of the infection. They tell me they have:
A nail that is many times thicker than their fingernails.
A heavy discoloration to the majority of the nail.
The nail is loose or separating from the skin, to the point that it can fall off (and only to regrow to look the same).
Discomfort and pressure from a wide or thick nail.
A buildup of crumbly debris beneath the nail. This is fungal debris. ( Warning – Do not try to remove or clean this out.)
By this time, however, the fungus has been in the nail for years. Although, a person may have just noticed it for a few months, it has been hanging around for a much longer time. This is a very SLOW changing problem. Little attention is given to feet, eyes, and teeth until something goes very wrong.
You guessed it – The ideal time to seek treatment for a fungal nail is when the fungus is just starting to set up shop. This is Stage 1 of a fungal infection. At this point the majority of people may not even suspect that there is a problem.
Symptoms of a Stage 1 fungal infection include:
A mild yellowish, brownish, or grayish discoloration in part of the nail. Typically less than 20 percent of the nail is affected)
White patches or streaks are in the nail.
That’s about all the fungus reveals of itself at stage 1. The nail is still at a normal thickness. It can be easy to assume that what you’re seeing is a simple and temporary result of a ding or nail injury. However, this type of damage should grow out with the nail and fade away. Discoloration from fungus move towards the base of the nail, not towards the end.
It is a very common mistake to see nail discoloration and believe it is residual from nail polish.
If you are seeing Stage 1 symptoms that are not going away, that is more than enough reason to have the nail evaluated.
The good news is that you have a little time to discover a problem as it develops. Stage 1 lasts for about a year or less before moving on. Stage 2 is when a third or more of the nail has become discolored, starts to thicken, and become brittle. You may start to notice it is difficult to trim the nail.
Stage 2 often lasts for 1-5 years.
So it’s not that you have to identify a potential fungal toenail infection as soon as possible. But if you ignore the signs or procrastinate you will miss the Honeymoon period of treatment. People have a great tendency to put off addressing things to the very last minute allowing plausible deniability. This is a great excuse but it does not work to your favor and sets up a major barrier for treatment.
You do NOT want to reach stage 3…
Tough to Cut
As Abraham Lincoln once said, “Give me six hours to chop down a tree, and I will spend the first four sharpening the ax. I will then need that sharpened ax to cut through my toenails because wow, they’ve become really thick and nasty!”
OK, we added the second part of that, but you get the picture.
Foot Fact: President Lincoln was the first President to have an official Podiatrist. That adds an interesting twist to the term POTUS.
Treating Toenail Fungus Effectively
The best course of treatment combines several treatments. Debridement, nail nutrition, and oral and topical medications will attack the fungus from all directions
Debridement is reducing the thickness and size of the nail. This allows the topical medication to better absorb into the nail and attack the fungus that has hunkered deep in the nail. Oral antifungal medications attack the fungus at the nail growth center. This is delivered through the blood stream and attacks the fungus from within the body. Topical medications absorb into the nail and attack from the outside.
There is no treatment that has a 100 percent cure rate, but using our combination provides about a 75 percent cure rate. Again, the stage of fungal development makes a big difference. The earlier treatment begins, the better your chances of success.
And by “full success,” we do mean full eradication of the fungus.
If the nail looks “a little better” it is still a plus, but the fungus still remains.
A treatment plan must consider other medical conditions you may have and how you might respond to specific medications. But the general rule still stands: the sooner you start attacking a fungal nail infection, the better your chances of optimal results.
If you do suspect potential circulatory problems are affecting your loved one’s feet, please do not hesitate to give us a call or send us questions. You may reach our Indianapolis office at(317) 545-0505 or fill out our online contact form.
Nip Mycotic Nails in the Bud
You never have to wait until something is “bad enough” before reaching out to us for help. Keeping a reasonable lookout for your best interests is wisdom at work!