Is it Time to See a Podiatrist for Your Toenail Fungus?


Many of our patients have asked when to make an appointment to address their toenail fungus. While most toenail fungus infections can be cared for from home, these infections can often spread and worsen. With simple treatment and the aid of a podiatrist, nearly every fungal infection is easily treated. Today Dr. Eric Ricefield, Dr. Mark Yagodich, Dr. Aliza V. Eisen, and Cassandra Stache, DPM of greater Philadelphia’s Your Next Step Foot and Ankle Care Center, share symptoms and treatment options for this condition.

Treating mild cases of  toenail fungus can sometimes be achieved through at-home treatments, like these:

  • Vinegar Soak: Vinegar has antifungal properties that may help combat toenail fungus. Mix equal parts of white vinegar and warm water in a basin or a tub, and soak your affected foot for 15-20 minutes daily. Afterward, pat your foot dry thoroughly.
  • Tea Tree Oil: Tea tree oil is known for its antifungal and antibacterial properties. Dilute tea tree oil with carrier oil (like coconut oil) and apply it directly to the affected toenail using a cotton ball or swab. Repeat this process 2-3 times daily.
  • Baking Soda Paste: Baking soda can create an alkaline environment that may inhibit the growth of fungi. Make a paste by mixing baking soda with water and applying it directly to the affected nails. Leave it on for a few minutes before rinsing it off. Repeat daily.
  • Good Foot Hygiene: Keeping your feet clean and dry is essential in managing toenail fungus. Wash your feet regularly, especially after sweating, and make sure to dry them thoroughly, paying attention to the areas between the toes.
  • Trimming and Filing: Regularly trim and file the affected toenail to reduce the buildup of fungus and debris. Remember to disinfect your nail clippers and files after use.
  • Over-the-Counter (OTC) Antifungal Creams: There are various OTC antifungal creams and ointments available that you can apply to the affected nail as per the product’s instructions.

Please note that these remedies are not a substitute for professional medical advice, and if your condition is severe or persists, it’s essential to consult a healthcare professional for proper diagnosis and treatment. Remember that toenail fungus can be stubborn and may take weeks or even months to improve. If the condition doesn’t improve or worsens despite these at-home treatments, it’s best to seek professional advice from a podiatrist or a dermatologist. They can provide more targeted treatments such as prescription antifungal medications or laser therapy if needed.

Toenail fungus is the most common form of infection. Signs of infection will appear in the nail where the fungus is developing. The nail may become brittle, discolored, misshapen, smell bad, or thicken. They may also separate from the nail bed.

When to See Your Podiatrist

If your nail suddenly begins to hurt, pulls away from the nail bed, or turns black or brown, contact your podiatrist ASAP. These are signs that the infection has worsened. If you notice additional swelling, blood around the nail, or if it impacts your ability to walk, schedule an appointment with your podiatrist.

Preventing Toenail Fungus

The best way to avoid toenail fungus is to prevent it from emerging in the first place. A few simple steps can reduce the risk of your toenail fungus becoming a bigger issue.

  • Fungus thrives in dark and moist environments, so keep your feet clean and dry. Keep your nails trimmed short and cut them straight across to reduce space for fungus to develop.
  • Pool decks and locker rooms are prime locations for fungus to gather, so avoid walking barefoot in either place.
  • If your feet get sweaty, change your socks and shoes regularly.
  • Have more than one pair of shoes, so the pair your feet sweated in can dry before wearing them again.

Most toenail fungus cases will go away quickly, but some may be particularly resistant to treatment. Contact Greater Philadelphia’s Your Next Step Foot and Ankle Care Center if your toenail fungus isn’t responding to home treatment. You can click here to locate contact information for the nearest office to book your appointment.

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