Toenail fungus, also known as onychomycosis, and tinea pedis (aka athlete’s foot), which is foot fungus are related. Some patients present with either of these problems, but many patients present with both. Both are caused by fungi, which are microscopic, extremely contagious and a challenge to treat. These fungi live in dark, moist, hot environments. If someone sweats in their socks, swims in a public pool, or if they are diabetic, these are some causes for an increased risk in fungus.
How can these two types of fungus be diagnosed?
Athlete’s foot and onychomycosis can be diagnosed by either clinical exam or by microscopic examination. Athlete’s foot can be diagnosed via a skin shaving, which is examined microscopically. Similarly, onychomycosis can be diagnosed via a clipping of the toenail and then subsequent examination at the laboratory. Many times treatment will begin before definitive diagnosis due to the clinical suggestion that a physician is dealing with fungus.
How do I know if I have either of these two fungi?
Athlete’s foot appears as red, itchy patches of flaky skin on the top or bottom of the foot. Athlete’s foot in between the toes appears to be macerated, or soft and white, as well as red and flaky. Toenail fungus may have many different appearances, including thickened, irregular, discolored nails. The nail can appear to be black, yellow, white or green.
How can I treat these two types of fungus?
Athlete’s foot can either be found between the toes or on the top and bottom of the foot. Despite what type you have these can be easily treated with antifungal creams.
Onychomycosis is more difficult to treat since the fungus imbeds deep into the toenail. It can be treated with oral antifungal medications, which in some patients can have adverse effects on the liver. Antifungal nail lacquers are also used for treatment and are common due to the lack of systemic effects that oral antifungals have. Surgical removal of the fungal toenails is common for someone who has a few infected toenails.
Lastly, laser treatment is the most advanced technology on the market (and its FDA cleared) to treat onychomycosis. At our office we use Sciton ClearSense laser to treat the toenail fungus. Treatment includes 4 easy, pain free treatments. The treatments last about 15 minutes, causes minimum pain and patients tolerate it extremely well. We recommend treatment with antifungal lacquer simultaneously to get maximum results.
Toenail fungus and athlete’s foot have been around a long time and as science and technology becomes more advanced the treatment gets more precise with better results. To date, treatment with laser technology for toenail fungus has gotten the best success rates.