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How to Catch Toenail Fungus Early

Dr. Eman Elmi
December 5, 2022
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Dealing with toenail fungus is unpleasant and unwanted. When most people think of toenail fungus, they picture its late-stage symptoms. Yellow/brown nail discoloration, brittle or crumbling nails, and thicker-than-usual nails. But if toenail fungus has reached this stage, that means it has been growing under the surface for a while. Early-stage toenail fungus is not undetectable, although it is more subtle than it becomes in its later stages. But knowing the signs of early-stage toenail fungus can prevent it from reaching more serious stages.

How to Detect Early-Stage Toenail Fungus

There are a few signs you can look for if you’re concerned about early-stage toenail fungus. In some cases, it may be easier to look at the shape and texture of the nail. Early-stage toenail fungus can cause the shape of the affected nail to become distorted in many cases. You might also notice small areas of crumbling or flaking along the edges of your toenails. If you spot these signs and can think of no other explanation, it is likely to be an early-stage toenail fungus.

Another potential early sign of toenail fungus is white or yellow spots on the nail. However, this one can be tricky. Sometimes, similar streaks may appear from routine nail injuries. So if you have recently stubbed your toe, for instance, you might notice similar discolorations. However, if you notice unusual discolored spots which can’t be explained, it could be a sign of toenail fungus.

What Does Toenail Fungus Look Like?

Of course, if you don’t catch toenail fungus in its early stages, its physical symptoms will change dramatically. So what does toenail fungus look like when it reaches later stages? 

In many cases, the first sign of severe, untreated foot fungus is a rapid thickening of the toenail. Toenail fungus often causes the nail to swell up after a while. Following this, the nail tends to become brittle and may start to crumble on its own. Lastly, untreated nail fungus will often cause a strong discoloration of the entire nail. Your nail may turn yellow or even brown as it crumbles. 

Any of these symptoms should be a sign to seek treatment for toenail fungus. Luckily, there are plenty of over-the-counter medications that can treat toenail fungus. If these are unsuccessful, there are several more advanced medical treatments to cure toenail fungus. Following successful treatment, the nail should be able to heal completely over time.

What Causes Toenail Fungus?

The best way to stop toenail fungus from reaching its final stages is to avoid catching it altogether. But to do that, you will need to know what causes toenail fungus in the first place.

Toenail fungus can be caused by several different factors. However, generally speaking, proper hygiene and foot care can prevent most cases. Toenail fungus is often caused by excessive exposure to moisture. So if you sweat heavily or spend a lot of time barefoot in damp locations, you may be at greater risk of toenail fungus. Athletes, for instance, are usually at greater risk of getting toenail fungus. This is both because they sweat heavily and are likely to spend time in locker rooms which are often damp.

Preventative measures such as frequently washing your feet and hands, wearing breathable socks and shoes, and not walking barefoot in damp public areas (locker rooms, swimming pools, etc.) are effective ways to prevent the spread of toenail fungus.

If you have exhausted all over-the-counter and at-home toenail fungus treatments, it may be time to seek alternative options. If that is the case, Diablo Foot and Ankle can help. Schedule a consultation with one of our expert podiatrists to discuss treatment options today.

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