Foot with Nail PolishHave been out training for the Broad Street Run? Determined to make it this year? Hold on, though—what’s with your toenails?  Why are they lifting up and all discolored? They hurt too! Could these be signs of toenail fungus?

This condition has gotten a lot of attention recently—even on TV—as new topical treatments have become available. So we see a lot of new patients with concerns of fungal toenails. However, not every discolored nail is fungus.

A nail that is traumatized can have similar symptoms. It can become discolored and lift, but usually it does not have any debris underneath which differentiates it from a fungal infection.  The treatment in this case is to reduce pressure on the nail. One way is using urea—a mild acid that softens and thins the nail to alleviate pressure on the nail bed.

If there is debris building under the nail, though, that’s a tell-tale sign of a fungal invasion. Fungal toenails are the result of a common fungus that often lives in your shoes, gets under the nail, and causes an infection. The nails become thick, crumbly, dark, and brittle. You may first notice a spot on the edge that progresses until the whole nail is infected. The fungus will be present under the nail and the cuticle and can be difficult to treat. Oral medications can travel through the bloodstream to kill the nail fungus at the nail bed and cuticle area. The medications do have some potentially serious side effects however, so they must be closely monitored throughout treatment.  Topical treatments can also help. They do not have the side effects, but can take two to three times longer to treat. For these reasons, many people opt for laser treatment. Although considered cosmetic and thus not typically covered by insurance, the technique boasts great results, focusing a beam of light, heating up the nail fungus, and killing it immediately without damaging surrounding tissues.

The only way to know for sure if you have a fungus under the nail is to send a sample to the lab and have it examined under a microscope. We use a specialized lab to ensure the best results for our patients. If you’re worried you have toenail fungus, call Podiatry Care Specialists, PC at (877) 905-5907. We will diagnose your condition and determine the best treatment plan for you.

Photo Credit: Hans via

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