How to Catch Nail Fungus Early

Mar 1, 2021

You likely have an image in your mind of what toenail fungus looks like. The symptoms are pretty classic:

  • A yellowish or brownish color
  • Thickening of the nails
  • Jaggedness
  • Deformation
  • Crumbliness

But what if we told you that, by the time you see these signs, the fungus has already had plenty of time to set up shop and bury itself deep within your toenails?

It takes a lot of time for symptoms such as those above to appear. And let’s be honest: even when the main symptoms start to appear, we tend to have a habit of overlooking it, or just hoping it goes away on its own – at least until it becomes too significant of a problem to ignore. 

We are not judging here. It is a very common and very human behavior.

Nevertheless, the fact remains that the sooner a fungal infection is diagnosed and addressed, the faster and more effective treatments tend to be. And when it comes to toenail fungus, the early signs are definitely not as obvious as what they end up becoming.

Catching and treating a fungal infection (or really any form of skin and nail condition) at its earliest stages can save you plenty of time and trouble, so we highly recommend paying attention to your feet and periodically checking for these first symptoms..

The Earliest Signs of a Fungal Toenail Infection

The initial signs of toenail fungus are very subtle. They might not even register as a potential infection at all unless you know what you’re looking for. 

The earliest signs include:

  • Unusual white or yellow streaks or spots in the nail
  • Crumbling along the edges or tips of the nail, particularly where it’s discolored
  • Flaking of the nail in certain areas
  • Increasing distortion of nail shape
  • Potentially more noticeable foot odor

The spots and streaks can be a particularly tricky symptom, as such marks can appear when you have bumped your toe against something as well. 

The best way to tell the difference between nail trauma and a fungal infection is to keep an eye on the marks for a while. Marks from a nail injury will eventually fade or grow out as the nail does. Spots and streaks from a fungal infection, however, will gradually change shape and grow.

If you are uncertain of your symptoms, it is never a bad idea to err on the side of caution and have them checked out anyway. Even if it doesn’t turn out to be a fungal infection, you’ll at least have the peace of mind of knowing.

What if I Have Later Stages of Toenail Fungus?

If your nails have already reached the thick, crumbly, majorly discolored stage, don’t fret. Your case is not hopeless!

Toenail fungus can actually be quite complex, but our experts will take the time to carefully examine your condition, assess both the type and severity of the disease, and then recommend a precisely tailored treatment plan we feel will give you the optimal chance of clearing the fungus. One particular treatment method we’re particularly proud to be able to offer is laser treatment.

Laser treatment is able to pass through nail tissue and hit a fungal infection right at the source. Topical medications, on the other hand, can have more trouble reaching the underlying infection. And oral anti-fungal medications, while able to treat the problem from the inside out, can sometimes come with side effects that don’t make them recommended for certain patients. (However, we might still recommend one of these treatments instead of or alongside laser treatment, depending on the specific circumstances surrounding a case.)

A course of laser treatment typically requires 3-4 sessions spaced out over a period of weeks or months, depending on the severity of the condition. These sessions don’t cause any burning and rarely cause any pain – most patients will feel a warming sensation and nothing more.

Although laser treatment can be very effective at eliminating the fungus, you should not expect your nails to look perfect immediately after the final session. Although the fungus may be gone, the damage it left to the nails will remain until fresh, clear nails can grow out to replace it. Full results may take anywhere from 6-12 months to see.

Get Rid of Your Toenail Fungus ASAP

Whether you are seeing early signs of a fungal toenail infection or your toes are already deep in the thick of it, there is no reason to wait any more to receive the treatment you need.

The longer an infection goes unaddressed, the firmer a hold it will have within the nail and the more challenging it will be to treat. We are still up to that challenge, of course, but we would rather save our patients as much time and effort as possible!

Our team at Family Foot Care & Surgery will carefully examine your case and provide our best recommendations for a course of action. The sooner the fungus is destroyed, the sooner your nails can heal, and the better you can avoid more substantial damage.

Call our offices in Milford, 203-876-7736, or Hamden, 203-288-4055, to schedule an appointment with us, or fill out our online contact form if you prefer to reach us electronically instead.