How to Catch Nail Fungus Early

Mar 26, 2023

Nail fungus is often stubborn and frustrating. They typically manifest as yellow-brown spots before discoloring, thickening, deforming, and crumbling the toenails. They may disappear and resurface multiple times, causing pain, jaggedness, toenail deformation, or limited mobility.

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 not as obvious as what they end up becoming.

Catching and treating a fungal infection (or 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.

Are you experiencing any of the above symptoms? Don’t worry — you’re not alone; toenail fungus is a common infection. The good news is that it’s manageable with some basic self-care techniques, pharmaceuticals, and/or non-invasive laser therapy.

The Earliest Signs of a Fungal Toenail Infection

Nail fungus can be quite subtle. During the infection’s initial stages, there may be no noticeable symptoms, making diagnosing it difficult. Chances are, by the time you’re detecting any signs, the fungus has already rooted itself deeply into the toenails and has been there for some time. It is imperative to take prompt action to prevent further damage.

That said, below are a few early signs to look out for if you suspect you have toenail fungus:

  • Discoloration of the toenail: The nail can turn extremely white, yellow, green, or black. Depending on the fungus’s duration under your toenails, the discoloration can show as streaks or spots or affect the entire nail.
  • Distortion of the nail: Nail fungus can also alter your toenails’ texture and shape. For example, it might cause nail flaking or thickening.
  • Weakening of nails: As the infection progresses, it can weaken and make your toenails crumbly and brittle. As a result, parts of the nails may break off or flake.
  • Discomfort: Another common sign is painful toenails when you put on closed shoes or walk slightly longer distances. Sometimes, this may lead to itching, swelling, reddening, or cracking of the skin surrounding the toenail.
  • Foot odor: If you don’t notice toenail fungus early enough, it might affect the skin beneath your nails and cause foot odor. Similarly, it can spread to the area between your toes, and develop into athlete’s foot.

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.

Showing toenails with nail fungus versus clear toenails

What if I Have Later Stages of Toenail Fungus?

Are your toenails already weak, extremely thick, crumbly, and discolored? Don’t fret — our experts can help you manage and recover from these conditions. We’ve helped hundreds of clients like you get their perfect toenails back.

One of the treatment methods that most people find helpful is laser treatment. This non-invasive technique involves directing laser beams to the affected toenails to kill the fungus without harming the surrounding tissues.

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.)

Depending on your condition’s severity, you might require 3-4 sessions that typically take a few weeks or months. 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

You should seek professional help whether you’re experiencing early or advanced signs of fungal nails. 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, but we would rather save our patients as much time and effort as possible!

Our Family Foot Care & Surgery specialists offer expert diagnosis, self-care advice, and treatment. The sooner we help you treat the fungus, the faster your toenails will heal, and the better you can prevent further damage.

Call us today at 203-288-4055 (our Hamden office) or 203-876-7736 (our Milford office) to schedule your appointment. You can also fill out this online contact form, and we’ll get back to you as soon as possible.