Why Toenail Fungus Can Be So Hard to Get Rid Of

Fungus is the name of the kingdom to which yeast, mushrooms and mold belong. As a living organism, it seeks out the ideal environment to safely multiply and spread, and for the fungi most commonly infecting the toenail, this is the damp, warm environment that your shoes provide. Like any living organism, fungi will do anything they can to avoid annihilation, and, for this purpose, it has developed some very impressive tactics that make it notoriously hard to get rid of. Understanding these strategies can help you overcome toenail fungus that won’t go away and/or keeps coming back.

Nail fungi survival strategies

First, it finds the perfect host. It has chosen you for a reason. You’re likely someone who wears close-toed shoes and socks so that people won’t see or smell the fungus, further protecting the fungus so it can flourish. The fungi specifically targeted your feet rather than your hands because fingers have more blood flow, which means more immune cells patrol for infections and eliminate them. If you have poor leg circulation, you’re at an increased risk for a fungal infection.

Now that the fungi have escaped early detection, it works its way into the nail matrix at the base of the toenail, which allows the fungi to separate the layers and build a colony between each one. This makes the toenail yellow and thicken as the fungi deconstruct your toenail layer by layer. As the infection advances, layers begin to flake off, leaving a very unsightly nail.

Using topical treatments and home remedies is simply not enough to fight a toenail infection because they cannot work their way through all of the layers of infection, and if any fungi survive, it can quickly repopulate. Studies show that even when people think they got rid of the fungus, which often takes weeks or months without medical intervention, recurrence rates are incredibly high.

This makes toenail fungus very different from another common foot fungus, athlete’s foot. Athlete’s foot fungus stays close to the surface, so if it’s caught early, an over-the-counter topical as well as disinfecting your shoes may get rid of it.

It doesn’t matter how early you catch toenail fungus; it almost always needs medical intervention. Waiting to see a doctor could lead to the need for progressively more invasive methods and you run the risk of completely losing your toenail permanently.

How to spot a toenail infection early

Be on the lookout for toenail fungus symptoms like:

If you have any of the following conditions that can lower your immunity, you should definitely keep a close eye on your feet:

Genetics may also be a factor as toenail infections appear to run in families.

How Dr. Hugentobler treats toenail infections

Dr. Hugentobler assesses the severity of the toenail infection and may recommend the following:

If the infection doesn’t respond well to these treatments, Dr. Hugentobler may remove part of the toenail so that a new toenail can grow. In extreme circumstances, a whole toenail may be removed, after which it can’t grow back.

Don’t let it get to this point. If you think you might have a toenail infection, drop the at-home remedies and contact Animas Foot & Ankle to schedule an appointment.


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