Fungal nail infections often get worse over time because the fungus grows and continues to ‘eat away’ at your nail. Your nails can become discoloured, thick, flaky and can crumble away. If you’re concerned about a fungal toenail infection, we recommend nipping it in the bud as soon as possible before things get worse.
Here’s a timeline for you to see what infections can look like, and what is happening at each stage:
One – Minor infection
At this stage, the fungus has started to superficially infect the nail, causing mild spotting and streaking through the nail. While unpleasant, it’s not too obvious currently, but it is the easiest to treat and eliminate at this point. Once treated, the nail should grow out healthy, clear and maintain a normal appearance. Even at this early stage, your infection can spread to other nails and to other members of your family – especially if you share a shower, bed, socks or shoes.
Two – The infection has penetrated the nail bed
The nail bed refers to the area beneath the bed, that is normally connected to the overlying nail. At this stage, unfortunately, the infection has caused the nail to separate from the nail bed, giving it that deeper discolouration. Yep – there’ll be plenty of fungal spores festering beneath the nail in that area. Superficial treatments like creams and lacquers are not advised – because they can’t get to the area beneath the nail to eliminate the entire infection. At this point, our podiatrists recommend laser treatment as a fast and non-invasive means to getting reliable results for nails with this appearance. Your nail should still grow out healthy and clear, with a normal shape.
Three – Crumbling partial nail
In the last two images, the infection has continued to eat away at the keratin that your nail is comprised of, travelling across the nail in its journey to a whole-nail infection. Parts of the nail have crumbled away, leaving a hard exposed nail bed beneath. You’ll most likely be hesitant to remove your socks or wear open toed-shoes, and you won’t be able to hide the infection under nail polish as easily with part of the nail missing. There is very little chance that this nail will get better on its own without treatment.
Four – Where the nail once was
With most of the nail destroyed by the fungus, you are left with some small pieces and jagged edges of infected nail – which can painfully catch on your socks. These pieces may thicken – as you can see in the final image. We’ve never seen any nail naturally recover from this, as the remaining fungus will continue to eat away at any new nail that grows – meaning it won’t really grow.
Thank goodness for technology
Thankfully, even at the worst stage of infection, we can still help eliminate the infection – and restore the appearance of your toenail. This starts by using laser treatment to destroy the infection. While laser doesn’t reverse the damage, it can stop it from continuing to infect your nail or getting worse, so your nail can begin to grow out again.
Following the laser treatment, we can also cosmetically restore the appearance of your nail by creating a breathable artificial nail in its place, that will grow out as your nail continues to grow back naturally. You can paint this nail, use nail polish remover, and generally treat it like a normal nail – and importantly, you don’t have to hide the nail.
Ready to treat your fungal nail infection?
Each appointment starts by confirming that you do have a fungal nail infection – and not something that just looks like a fungal nail infection. You’ll be seen and treated by our qualified and experienced podiatrists. Book your appointment by calling 1800 366 837 or booking online here.