If you have toenail fungus, the first treatment you should try is over-the-counter pastes or creams. They will work in a number of cases, leading the nail to become clearer and flatter over time as the fungus is killed. Many patients, however, do not experience relief from these creams and ointments. If your toenail fungus falls into this tough category, here are two treatment options to consider:
Oral Prescription Medications
Often, taking an antifungal treatment by mouth, rather than just applying it to the nail, is more effective in alleviating toenail fungus. These drugs do take a while to have an effect, since they work by causing the new nail to grow out fungus-free. The old nail will still remain yellow and infected-looking, and you won't get rid of it entirely until it is completely trimmed away and replaced by new nails.
Though prescription antifungal drugs work for many patients, there are some side effects to consider. They cause abdominal discomfort, diarrhea, nausea and headaches in some patients. For many patients, these side effects diminish over time. Serious side effects, like blistering and peeling skin, occur in a small number of patients and are signs the medication is not compatible with your body.
Surgical Removal of the Toenail
If you cannot take, or prefer not to take prescription antifungal medications, another option is to have your toenail removed. Depending on the severity of your condition, your podiatrist may remove just the nail, or both the nail and the nail matrix. If just the nail is removed, you will typically be asked to apply a topical antifungal agent to the nail bed periodically in the first few weeks after surgical nail removal. This helps ensure that the new nail grows back fungus-free.
For patients who have a long history of toenail fungus, and for those who still have fungus in spite of a previous nail removal or treatment with prescription drugs, a podiatrist may recommend removing both the nail and the nail matrix (the part from which your nail grows). If the nail matrix is removed, your nail will never grow back – so you'll never have an issue with fungus on that toe again. Removing the nail matrix is a more extensive procedure that just removing the nail, but it is still a simple outpatient procedure from which you'll recover rather quickly.
If your toenail fungus does not respond to over-the-counter creams, don't ignore it. Ask your podiatrist about these treatment options today. For more information, contact Hara Podiatrists Group or a similar organization.