If a toenail appears thickened or discolored, it is possible that the nail is affected with a fungal infection. Fungal nail infections rarely improve if not treated, and can often spread to involve the other toenails.
There are two common causes of fungal toenail infections. The first is trauma. If a nail has been damaged by stubbing or by dropping an object on it, often the new nail will be infected with fungus. The second common cause is direct spread of infection via inadequately cleansed nail instruments during a pedicure. One way to assure that you will not develop a nail infection while getting pedicures is to buy and have the pedicurist use your own instruments on your feet during your pedicure. Cleanse your instruments with an antimicrobial solution after usage. Make sure that any tub that you soak your feet in prior to getting a pedicure is well cleaned, don’t be afraid to ask the pedicurist about their cleaning and sterilization techniques.
If your nail appears thickened or discolored, your Podiatrist will take a clipping of the affected nail and send it for fungal culture. This test will definitively state if the nail is infected with fungus.
When fungal infection of the nail is present, there are three treatment options. The first is the use of topical medications to the nail. This treatment has traditionally had very low success rates. The second treatment is the use of an oral antifungal medication, which has a higher rate of success when used in the right patients. Lastly, the fungus nail can be treated with a series of laser treatments in the office setting, without any pain or disability.