Do you remember the Lamisil commercials with the yellow little creature that lived under the toenails? The ad campaign was very popular and the little yellow creature was called Digger the dermatophyte. A dermatophyte is a fungus that lives on skin or nails and if you have thick, yellow, crumbly toenails than you have dermatophytes living on your nails right now.
There are millions of Americans who suffer with nail fungus. It is embarrassing and sometimes painful but there are solutions for this disease. My job in this article is to sift through all the information that is out there and separate the facts from the fiction.
First off, who gets nail fungus? Anyone with nails. Men and women are equally at risk. There is no bias based on race. Why does it seem like older people have more nail fungus? The reason is because the longer you live the longer your nails are exposed to nail fungus. You don't have to be a senior citizen to have nail fungus. I treat many people in their 20's and 30's with the condition.
What causes nail fungus? The truth is that nail fungus is genetic. Our genes determine so many things about us, height, hair color and susceptibility to certain infections. The people whose genes just so happen to have difficulty killing this fungus are the ones that ultimately wind up with the infection. Make no mistake, nail fungus is an infection. It is caused by the same fungus that causes athlete's foot.
OK, so what doesn't cause nail fungus? Pedicures, high heeled shoes and nail polish have all been implicated in the cause of nail fungus. This is simply not true. The vast majority of men have never had a pedicure, worn high heels or used nail polish and yet men are just as likely to have nail fungus as women.
What doesn't treat nail fungus? Vick's vapor rub, bleach, Epsom salt, vinegar and just about any other household cleaning product have been discussed as treatments to nail fungus. This is absolute fiction. I don't care what Dr. Oz or Oprah says. There has never been a study to prove than any of these cleaners do anything to nail fungus. I know, but you heard that a guy at work had a friend that had a sister-in-law that used Vick's on her nails and it worked like a charm. Trust me; if any of these products really worked they would be marketed as such. I am a foot doctor that treats this stuff every day and even when we use FDA approved topical medications on nail fungus the rate of improvement is less than 25%.
This leads me to the final question, what does treat nail fungus? As I said, there is an FDA approved topical medication and it is called Ciclopirox. It must be applied every day for a year and it has about a 15-25% rate of improvement. You could take Lamisil pills, now generic and called Terbinifine, once a day for 90 days. The drug is filtered through your liver, just like most drugs, so you must have a simple screening blood test prior to starting the medication to make sure your liver is healthy. This therapy has about a 75% rate of improvement. The final therapy is light therapy or Laser therapy. This treatment consists of amplified light applied to the nail to kill the fungus. The treatment is painless, it takes 15 minutes for 3 sessions and it does not interact with any medications at all. It is the safest therapy available. This light therapy is the newest on the market and unfortunately is not covered by insurances. The cost is between $600 and $1300 depending on the number of nails affected. The rate of improvement is 85% which makes it the most effective treatment available.
Whether you need topical treatments, pills or the new laser is up to you and your foot doctor to decide, but at least now you know the truths and the lies about nail fungus.
Committed to your health,
Dr. Craig Conti
Sarasota Foot Care Center