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What to Do About Your Nail Fungus

Posted on: March 1st, 2022 by Kristen Chang

Over the years, California Skin Institute providers have helped many patients treat nail fungus. Although this condition can cause physical discomfort and feelings of self consciousness, nail fungus is actually a very common occurrence among Americans. Unfortunately, many patients wait too long to start treatment, because they believe over the counter medications and at-home cures may solve the issue. What they don’t realize is that nail fungus can be quite difficult to treat without professional intervention due to how the fungus grows and the role of the toe nail.

If you’re struggling with nail fungus, please schedule a consultation with a California Skin Institute licensed practitioner by calling a practice near you, or schedule your appointment online now.

What is Nail Fungus?

Nail fungus is similar to a bacterial infection, except that it’s spread through fungal spores rather than bacteria. It is typically contracted through the use of gyms and workout facilities, and can also be acquired through direct contact.

“It’s actually relatively easy to catch,” suggests Dr. Anhalt, one of the board-certified dermatologists at California Skin Institute. “People are exposed to nail fungus on a regular basis, but when it comes to individuals who end up developing nail fungus, their immune cells are unable to find and kill the organisms. This does not mean there is an abnormal immune system, as this is extremely common.”

However, what most patients don’t realize is that fungus isn’t really a problem of the nail. “It starts at the junction of the skin and nail, at the tip of the finger,” Dr. Anhalt continues, “and as the fungus grows, it causes discoloration and deformity of the nail. So when we treat nail fungus, we also need to treat the fungus in the skin under the nail, as well as the nail plate itself.”

Treating Nail Fungus

In order treat nail fungus your California Skin Institute specialist can use a number of different approaches, including topical medications, laser treatments, and even oral medications. However, as Dr. Anhalt explains, there are several major considerations:

“The difficulty with treating nail fungus is targeting the infection underneath the nail plate. This is one of the reasons why topical medication typically shows lower instances of success, especially in severe cases, because the active ingredients in a cream have to penetrate through the nail and into the skin below it. This can be especially problematic with thick nails, and we may need to resort to oral medication.”

This same issue of nail thickness must be considered with laser treatments. Lasers for nail fungus, like the PinPointe laser, are designed to kill the fungus below the nail, but can be hindered by thick nails or nails significantly deformed by the fungus.

“In severe cases where the nail has become abnormal and thickened by the fungus, we may even need to remove the nail to make the treatment more effective, because it opens up direct access to the skin underneath.”

Results of Nail Fungus Treatment

Treatments of nail fungus typically need several months (and even up to a year) to show improvement. The reason for this has to do with nail anatomy, as the nail itself is largely made up of dead cells and treating it cannot restore its previous appearance. Instead, the damaged nail has to grow out and will push the affected nail ahead of it, which will be clipped off.

In the case of fungus on toe nails, it takes approximately one year for the body to produce enough cells to fully replace the old nail, but will vary from person to person. When it comes to fungus on fingernails, the process is about twice as fast, and the new nail will grow out within about six months, but will vary from person to person.

Complications from Untreated Nail Fungus

Once fungus has proliferated to the nails, the body is unlikely to heal the problem on its own, and the fungal growth will continue deforming the nail. If left untreated, this condition can cause ingrown toe nails and can lead to infection.

This is an especially serious problem for patients with a compromised immune system. Elderly patients or those with conditions like diabetes are especially susceptible to infections. In this way, untreated fungus of the nail can lead to serious complications in other parts of the body.

Taking the Next Step

If you’re struggling with nail fungus, the experts at California Skin Institute are happy to help. We can assess your situation and create a customized treatment plan. Set up your nail fungus consultation by calling a California Skin Institute practice near you, or request your appointment online!

Dr. Todd Anhalt is a board-certified dermatologist with over 20 years of experience helping patients treat nail fungus and other skin conditions. In addition to helping his patients, Dr. Anhalt also serves as a Clinical Professor of Dermatology at Stanford.

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