Toenail fungus often begins as an infection in the skin called tinea pedis (also known as athlete’s foot). The fungus often starts under the nail fold at the end of the nail. Over time, it grows underneath the nail and causes changes to its appearance, such as a yellow or brownish discoloration. It can also cause thickening and deformity of the toenail.
Oral medications include terbinafine (76% effective), itraconazole (60% effective) and fluconazole (48% effective). They share characteristics that enhance their effectiveness: prompt penetration of the nail and nail bed, and persistence in the nail for months after discontinuation of therapy. Ketoconazole by mouth is not recommended due to side effects. Oral terbinafine is better tolerated than itraconazole. For superficial white onychomycosis, systemic rather than topical antifungal therapy is advised.
White superficial onychomycosis (WSO) is caused by fungal invasion of the superficial layers of the nail plate to form "white islands" on the plate. It accounts for around 10 percent of onychomycosis cases. In some cases, WSO is a misdiagnosis of "keratin granulations" which are not a fungus, but a reaction to nail polish that can cause the nails to have a chalky white appearance. A laboratory test should be performed to confirm.
Oral antifungal therapy has a high cure rate, depending on the medication. It can take nine to 12 months to see if it has worked or not, because that is how long it takes for the nail to grow out. Even when therapy works, the fungus may come back. Currently, an oral antifungal therapy is considered the best treatment for toenail fungus because of higher cure rates and shorter treatment duration compared to topical therapy.
Rotate your shoes – Change your shoes often. Even though you may have that favorite pair that you like to wear all the time, it is better for your feet to switch up your shoes from time to time. Even wearing the same pair of shoes two days in a row can elevate your risk for toenail fungus. Place shoes that you are not wearing in an area where they will get plenty of air.
Prevent future occurrences. There are many situations that make you more at risk for infection. You are at a higher risk if you are older, have diabetes, have an impaired immune system, or have poor circulation. If you are at high risk, you should take extra care to prevent infection. Preventative measures include wearing shoes or sandals when you are at damp public areas such as swimming pools or gyms, keeping your toenails clipped and clean, making sure your feet are dry, and drying your feet after you shower.
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