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Ask the doctor: What’s the best way to treat toenail fungus?

Q. My toenails are thick and discolored. They’re so unsightly that I’m too embarrassed to wear sandals when I go on vacation. What can I do about them?

A. Toenails naturally change in consistency with age. But coupled with discoloration, the thickening, as well as other symptoms like brittleness and white or yellow streaks on the sides, could be a sign of nail fungus. Fungi like to live in the toenails, which provide a dark, moist environment for them to grow. As you get older, reduced blood circulation and the natural thickening of your toenails makes you more likely to develop an infection.

See your doctor or podiatrist to have your toes examined. The doctor may scrape a sample from under your nail to look at under a microscope and determine what type of fungus is causing the problem.

You can find antifungal creams and ointments in your local drugstore, but they typically don’t work very well. Your doctor can prescribe an oral antifungal drug such as terbinafine (Lamisil), especially if you have diabetes or if the nail infection is causing you discomfort. You’ll take these medicines for six to 12 weeks.

Laser treatments may also help rid you of the infection. For more extreme or painful cases, surgery can be done to remove the infected nail, but it can take a full year or more for the nail to grow back after the procedure.

— Anne Fabiny, MD
Editor in Chief, Harvard Women’s Health Watch

Posted by: Dr.Health

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