Do I have foot fungus?
May 25, 2013 3:07 PM   Subscribe

Warning, question not for the faint of heart: My big toenails are yellowing with some gross gunk under my nails. Is it fungus?

The nail themselves aren't brittle or overly thick, and all other nails are just fine. No itching, and but I have some dryness (my skin is dry overall, so I never thought much of it.) HOWEVER, my big toes are overly sensitive. They are much more prone to injury than normal (I suspect). I went hiking a few weeks or so ago and after three hours trekking through the words, my nails were (and still are) black and blue just under the nail bed. And this was not the first time I've had such an injury.

I can see a podiatrist eventually, but I have a lot of other medical crap going on right now that takes precedence over this. I just want to know if this sounds like it could be fungus. My normal routine: I usually use foot powder in the summer and clean my feet with a tea tree oil wash in the shower. I never shower or remove my shoes in public places, and my SO's feet are fine.

If this is fungus, what's your anti-fungal cure? Is it as hard to get rid of as I hear it is?
posted by ancient star to Health & Fitness (12 answers total) 5 users marked this as a favorite
If you have toenail fungus, you're screwed. You'll need Sporonox or Lamisil (I had both!) and you have to have blood tests during the treatment.

Also, you have to throw away all of your shoes! (I cried).

So go to your doctor and have him/her evaluate it.

You can try tea tree oil, or some other fungicide, but if it's the yukky toenail fungus, it's a systemic thing and it's a bitch.

The good news is that the fungicides knocked out my Valley Fever, so there's that.

Oh, and for those of you with good imaginations, my toe nails are nice and pretty now.
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 3:13 PM on May 25, 2013

Honestly, I would get yourself to a dermatologist or podiatrist ASAP and have them take a look. It definitely sounds like a fungal infection to me but my experience with OTC fungal creams and powders had been crummy enough that I only trust my doctor's recommendations now. My parents and I have a low-grade fungal infection on our feet and heels at all times despite a bunch of different treatments, and it's probably because we didn't have anyone look at it before we tried to treat it ourselves.

That being said, I have found that rinsing my feet in salt water, chlorinated pool water, and apple cider vinegar can make a big difference at least temporarily, so YMMV.
posted by These Birds of a Feather at 3:14 PM on May 25, 2013

Sounds like you had blisters under your nails, the toe box of your shoes might be not big enough so your toes end up bumping into your shoes over and over until they get sore/blisters.

The nail might have lost touch with the nail bed and as a result the nail looks yellowish. The stuff you describe under your nails might be residue/skin/blood even from the blister.

It might grow out perfectly healthy, though sometimes the nail stays detached from the nail bed.

This in itself does not equal fungus, but since your nails are already injured I believe it is more likely to get a fungal infection.

Since you have other doc's appointments coming up (right?) just ask them about it and go from there.
posted by travelwithcats at 3:29 PM on May 25, 2013 [1 favorite]

My doctor had me buy a bottle of Vick's Vaporub and apply daily. It takes a long time but it beats having to take strong medicines internally and is pretty cheap to boot. It works.
posted by St. Alia of the Bunnies at 3:33 PM on May 25, 2013 [1 favorite]

Nthing that Vick's is very effective and does take a long time, indeed. Run an emery board over the nail as though you were sanding it down before you apply the Vick's. Do it before bed and wear socks. I also did laser treatments.

My parents and I have a low-grade fungal infection on our feet and heels at all times despite a bunch of different treatments

Me, too. Oxistat costs a fortune just for the co-pay, but it helps a lot.
posted by jgirl at 3:46 PM on May 25, 2013

YES! Vicks! If it's a toenail fungus, it's really not that big of a deal as other posters may have suggested (especially since it sounds like you've caught it early).

I got the tip about Vicks from another question on here. I was skeptical, but had already tried other options (e.g. tea tree oil) without success. I noticed an improvement very quickly with Vicks.

Did I mention that Vicks worked for me? ;)
posted by too bad you're not me at 4:26 PM on May 25, 2013 [1 favorite]

I agree that this is a hiking injury, not fungus. But. Your nails will probably fall off, and while they grow back will be tender and prone to being ingrown. I'd see a podiatrist when you can.

If for some reason you get toenail fungus: Stronger than Vick's is Olbas oil. The entire nail has to grow out, which can take six months, but it works.

And you don't have to throw out your shoes.
posted by Specklet at 5:10 PM on May 25, 2013

Vicks worked for me. I had very bad fungus on my big toenail for years, and I used the Vicks every night for about three weeks, then I got haphazard about it and used it a few nights a weeks for another month, and then I forgot it entirely. But when I went to trim my toenails, I could see a clear and healthy nail growing in where before there had been horrible yuck.

I wasn't careful about filing my nail before application, but I made sure to really glop it on and massage it fully in all around the perimeter of the nail. And I applied it to each nail on the infected foot, whether it looked fungus-y or not. Socks are a must, or you're going to end up with ruined sheets. Once it got warm, I switched from using it at night to using it in the morning before I put on my shoes and socks. Then, once I got home and took them off, I'd wash my feet to make sure I wasn't tracking greasy toe marks around the house.

My sister tried Vicks on hers, and applied it nightly very habitually for months and it did nothing at all. She is now using the Lamisil pills and having success.

All the women in my family have had it at one point or another, and each of us has gone to a doctor at one point or another for it, but not one doc has ever suggested we needed to throw out all our shoes. I'm shocked by that idea.
posted by Brody's chum at 6:18 PM on May 25, 2013 [1 favorite]

I don't think my nails are going to fall off. The bruising is healing at this point, and my nails have been yellowing for a while (since before this injury). I was just using that as an example of how how injury prone they are/I am. My nails are in good shape other than the discoloration, so it's not a huge, huge concern. I will definitely try Vicks.

And I am definitely not going to throw away my shoes!
posted by ancient star at 6:27 PM on May 25, 2013

I had a bout of ingrown toes and subsequent infections when I was younger, and the only thing that worked to clear it up was soaking my foot in a betadine and warm water solution like twice a day. That cleared up the infections nicely, but I ultimately had to have surgery to fix the ingrown toenail. One of the more painful things ever.

Since then, I've been meticulous about keeping my toenails trimmed properly. The one time I forgot to keep up on it coincided with being on my feet all day in slightly too small shoes. Toenails were a bloody mess. Don't discount the idea that your shoes are not fitted properly. (Or they just aren't good shoes.) Shoes should keep your feet from being injured, not cause it to happen.
posted by gjc at 8:12 PM on May 25, 2013

Lamisil has the side effect of sometimes causing serious liver damage, so...

Apparently (according to a podiatrist's sign I just saw while passing his office), there's a new Nd-YAG laser treatment, which sounds kind of ingenious (nails are more transparent than flesh, so they'll channel the light to the fungus at the nail root). Don't know about price.
posted by IAmBroom at 7:45 PM on May 26, 2013 [1 favorite]

Don't know about price.

IIRC, mine were about $100 per toe in 2010 or 2011.
posted by jgirl at 5:19 PM on May 30, 2013

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