One of the most common questions we are asked as Podiatrist’s is, “Why are my toenails ugly?”.

The second most common question regards toenails is, “Why are my nails getting thicker?”.

Changes in our toenails is incredibly common. Sometimes these changes can simply be due to dropping something on the nail & damaging the nail. Age also affects nail growth and appearance. BUT, the most common cause of discoloured and thickened toenails is FUNGUS or medically something called Onychomycosis.

You may think it’s only a minor issue but this infection has the potential to spread throughout the whole nail, spread to the rest of your nails & even spread to other family members.

How did I get it?

Fungal nail infections are caused by the same bug that causes tinea. And these infections are easily “picked up”. You will most commonly pick them up from places such as public pools & showers at hotels or caravan parks. You may have it because a family member has a fungal infection. You can also contract it visiting some nail/beauty salons if they are not using sterile equipment. And lastly, you may develop an infection because this bug naturally lives on your skin – so you can infect yourself through damaging the nail.

How long will it last?

Once the nail is infected it won’t go away by itself & will almost always spread – YOU HAVE TO TREAT IT!

So what can I do about it?

Most importantly don’t ignore it. There is a saying, “From little things, big things grow”. Fungal nail infections are like that. They start out in just a small area of nail & then spread. It may spread through one nail or it may spread through all of your nails – it can even spread to finger nails. And it might take years & years to develop or within months you can notice dramatic spread of the infection.

  • If you use nail polishesremove your polish regularly. Nail polish doesn’t normally cause infections but it can make it worse by trapping the infection in the nail. Polishes also dry out your nails, make them more brittle & make them more likely to become infected. It’s important to get a product like Drs Remedy which doesn’t contain any of the nasty chemicals found in most polishes but also contains tea tree oil & garlic which has been shown to have anti-fungal properties. That doesn’t mean it treats fungal infections but won’t encourage it to spread. And it’s healthier for your nails. This product is available to purchase from our clinics. For further information about nail polish, check out this article we wrote – click HERE

  • Hurry up & tell me what to do! Sorry medical people can ramble a bit when explaining problems. So here’s the basic advice – if your nail is discoloured get it checked by a Podiatrist. There are less common reasons a nail becomes discoloured & this may be due to trauma ie. you’ve stubbed your toe or dropped something heavy on the nail & bruised it – this can make the nail change colour & thicken. The scary one though is there is an increasing occurrence of melanomas being detected under toenails. SO DON’T MESS AROUND, GET THE NAIL CHECKED.

If I need to see a Podiatrist what will you do?

We’ll first determine if it’s a fungal infection. If it is a fungal infection then the basic advice is:

  1. If the nail is only infected on the top of the nail, treatment may simply involve painting an anti-fungal medication on the nail but this may take many months to work.
  2. If the nail is thickened or lifting off the bed underneath, it will need to be treated with either medication or laser. These treatments are both effective however the medication has some side effects (gut & liver & may require blood tests) whereas laser has no side effects. Success with laser is around 75% of cases treated.
  3. It’s also important to minimise the risk of contracting the infection again so some simple things are wearing thongs in showers/around pools, changing socks & shoes daily & keeping feet dry. Don’t share nail clippers. If you go to a nail salon, ask if their instruments are sterilised. And lastly check if any other family members have any nail infection.

When you come to Healthy Life Foot Clinic with concern about a fungal nail infection we do the following:

  • Initial assessment to confirm you do have a fungal nail infection
  • Determine the potential cause of the infection
  • Provide you a plan of how we will treat the infection & how to minimise the risks of re-infection.

We have been using laser for nail infections for more than 4 years with a high level of success. Treatment is painless, simple, safe & has no side effects.

Watch this video for the simple process involved in treating a fungal nail.

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