Even mild discoloration of a toenail can be a sign that something is not right, getting this checked by a doctor is a good way to prevent a larger problem from breaking out. There seems to be an unprecedented number of health concerns to keep tabs on and try to avoid. With bigger maladies like cancer and Alzheimer’s stealing up all the attention, many people overlook smaller symptoms that can also lead to unpleasant conditions.
A yellowing nail may not be particularly painful and is likely to be allowed sufficient time to mature into a larger condition before many people begin to seek out an adequate remedy. Many people make the mistaken assumption that a yellowed nail that isn’t causing any pain is merely a cosmetic issue and can be allowed to fester.
Onychomycosis is generally painless, in the beginning, but leaving toenail fungus to fester to the point that it is a problem can seriously affect the smooth function of your feet and even cause posture problems and other conditions.
Following are some of the most prominent conditions that are linked to unchecked toenail fungus.
As time progresses and the fungal growth becomes more pervasive, the toenail may thicken to an alarming degree and can make the joints and soft tissues very tender. This can make walking with shoes a very uncomfortable undertaking.
Don’t assume that the fungal intruder will stay put underneath a single nail. Fungal growth can spread to other nails and even to the skin of the surrounding foot. The fungus that spreads to the thick skin of the foot can cause cracking skin, redness, and bleeding; a condition known as “athlete’s foot”. The warmth and moisture of feet in shoes and socks provides a perfect spot for fungal growth to become well established.
From a stronghold on the feet, the fungal menace can spread to other parts of the skin, even the genitalia where it can turn into “Jock Itch”, a condition as common in men as in women.
Toenail fungal infections can be especially damaging to people who are already suffering from diabetes and other conditions that weaken the immune system. Toenail fungus spreads to other parts of the body by finding a suitable crack in the skin’s integrity and setting up a new colony. This is a condition called “cellulitis” and is characterized by puffy, red skin that is both itchy and tender. All such conditions must be addressed with antibiotics if left unchecked infections can spread to the bloodstream and cause more severe issues.
The final result of toenail fungus is a condition called “onycholysis”, when the nail itself dislodges from the nail bed, either partially or entirely. When this happens, the dislodged section of the nail must be removed, even if not fully dislodged a physician may suggest removing the infected nail.
For conditions that have become particularly advanced, a minor surgical procedure can remove the toenail entirely. After a “matrixectomy” the nail’s growing centers at the base of the root are destroyed, and a new nail can not be produced.
If you suspect that foul fungus could be lurking beneath your toes, don’t hesitate to see a medical professional, even if you feel no immediate discomfort. A doctor may take a small sample of the nail in question for a lab testing and then decide on further treatments depending on the results. If a presence of nail fungus is confirmed, a topical or oral medication may be prescribed to control and reverse the condition. These medications are generally very mild and have little or no side effects.