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THE MOST COMMON NAIL DISEASE: TOENAIL FUNGUS
By Bethesda, MD & Springfield, VA Podiatrist, Dr. Paul Ross

What Is Toenail Fungus?

Toenail fungus, also known as onychomycosis or tinea unguium, is a fungal infection that affects the nails. It may begin as a discoloration on the tip of the nail, usually yellow, and nails eventually become darker in color, thick, and can crumble at the edges.

The common symptoms of toenail fungus:

  • The darkening of nails
  • Nail thickening
  • Distorted nail shape
  • Brittle, ragged, or crumbling nails
  • A lack of shine
  • Pain in the tips of toes
  • Foul odor

In some cases, infected nails may separate from the nail bed. This is called onycholysis and is painless in most cases, but should be treated at the root of the cause. Though onycholysis can also be caused by sunburn, allergies, or a yeast infection under the nails, toenail fungus is also a leading cause. If you’ve experienced separation of the nail from the nail bed and need help with treatment, please don’t hesitate to give our Bethesda, MD or Springfield, VA podiatry office a call. We can help your toenail fungus.

Are There Different Types Of Toenail Fungus?

Yeast infection: The yeast Candida albicans can cause toenail infection. This one is relatively rare as it mostly occurs in children with a genetic disorder of the immune system in which an extensive Candida infection affects the scalp, mouth, torso, and nails.

White islands: An extremely common infection (also on fingernails), this is a superficial toenail fungus that can spread to the nail bed in which cloudy “white islands” are developed on the nail.

Distal toenail infection: The most common cause for toenail infection is when the tip of the nail lifts from the nail bed, allowing fungus to enter the tissue. This can be caused simply by wearing shoes that are too tight and is called distal subungual onychomycosis.

Proximal toenail infection: Often seen in people with conditions that affect the immune system, sometimes the fungus can enter the nail bed from the cuticle area.

What Are The Causes Of Toenail Fungus?

Essentially, there are three types of fungus that can cause toenails to become infected: yeast, mold, and dermatophyte. A yeast toenail infection is usually white, a mold infection is generally a dull brown, and a dermatophyte infection is generally yellow. These various causes have different treatment options, so it’s important to find out exactly what kind of toenail fungus you have before taking any severe measures to treat it.

Can I Treat My Toenail Fungus At Home?

If your toenail fungus isn’t severe and you don’t have a serious condition such as diabetes, HIV/AIDS, or other immune deficiency, then you can attempt several home treatment options before choosing to call a podiatrist in Bethesda, MD or podiatrist in Springfield, VA if it doesn’t clear up. If your problem persists, however, or even gets worse, it’s time to consult a podiatrist.

What Are The Risks Of Leaving Toenail Fungus Untreated?

Some of the risk factors include:

  • Thick, misshapen toenails that cause pain when walking or wearing shoes.
  • Spread of the fungus, resulting in athlete’s foot, or to the genitals, resulting in jock itch.
  • Widespread infection resulting in cellulitis, which is a risk especially for individuals with a compromised immune system.
  • Avulsion (nail removal) or loss of nails if the infection isn’t treated or doesn’t get better.

When Should I See a Bethesda or Springfield Podiatrist?

If you have a condition that compromises your immune system, home treatments and remedies may not be a viable option to begin with, so it’s important to see a podiatrist right away to avoid complications and minimize risks. For healthy individuals, home treatments may help to get rid of the fungus, but they are never a guarantee.

If you find that you have stubborn toenail fungus that won’t go away with home treatments or you need to see a podiatrist because you have diabetes or another condition, Dr. Paul Ross can help! Please don’t hesitate to give us a call at 301-656-6055.


The Podiatry Centers located in Bethesda, Maryland (MD) and Springfield, Virginia (VA) treat all medical and surgical foot and ankle conditions. Licensed Podiatrist, Dr. Paul Ross can help bring you foot and ankle pain relief.

Our Bethesda, Maryland (MD) and Springfield, Virginia (VA) Podiatry offices offer the most effective and state-of-the-art, quality podiatry care services with a smile to patients in our local community, including: Woodbridge VA, Fairfax VA, Annandale VA, Arlington VA, Alexandria VA, Burke VA, Gaithersburg MD, Potomac MD, Silver Spring MD, Rockville MD and Chevy Chase MD.

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