While you might be worried about their appearance, thick, yellow, crusty, or crumbly toenails are signs of an underlying podiatric health condition. Board-certified podiatrist Jennifer Tauber, DPM, and the team at New Canaan Podiatry in New Canaan, Connecticut, can help.
From expert diagnosis to the best-customized treatments available, Dr. Tauber identifies the underlying issues causing your condition and works to improve the appearance and health of your toenails. Keep reading to learn why your nails are yellow and crumbly and how we can help.
Why are my toenails thick, yellow, or crumbly?
Most of the time, onychomycosis, or toenail fungus, is at the bottom of toenails that don’t look quite right. Onychomycosis is usually triggered by dermatophytes, fungi that thrive on the keratin naturally present in your nails and skin.
Dermatophytes consume keratin and multiply quickly, making onychomycosis highly contagious—especially if your feet frequently feel warm in most environments, like sweaty socks, gym locker rooms, public showers, and saunas. About 20% of Americans suffer from the condition.
As these fungi consume the keratin, they break it down. The result is debris of keratin that forms a crumbly residue in your nails. This can cause your nails to change in appearance and become:
- Yellow or brown
- Distorted in shape
Nail fungus may stay contained to one nail, but it usually spreads to the other toes on your foot. It may even move to your fingernails.
Certain factors increase your risk of getting onychomycosis, including having a weakened immune system, diabetes, circulatory issues, sweaty feet, going barefoot in places where dermatophytes thrive, and wearing tight or synthetic shoes.
Can anything get rid of toenail fungus?
Absolutely! However, onychomycosis is a stubborn, difficult-to-treat infection. Addressing it with at-home treatments can create even more problems and increase your risk of losing your nails. That’s why it’s best to see a podiatrist for professional treatment.
If you suspect you have toenail fungus, schedule an evaluation with Dr. Tauber sooner rather than later. The longer you wait to start treatment, the more time the dermatophytes have to spread to other nails.
Dr. Tauber carefully examines your nails and reviews your podiatric and medical history to design a personalized toenail fungus treatment for your specific needs. She generally begins with more conservative treatments, like topical medications, but may recommend oral antifungal medicines or laser therapy.
The Fotona ClearSteps™ laser system gets to the root of your onychomycosis infection without hurting your toenail or the surrounding tissues. The laser energy moves through your nail to kill the fungus below.
Most patients require several laser sessions to kill the fungi fully. Dr. Tauber may also remove any keratin debris that’s crusting your nails so they can grow new keratin and resume a more natural appearance.
If you have severe toenail fungus, Dr. Tauber may suggest toenail surgery. During this therapy, the infected nail is removed to allow Dr. Tauber to treat the nail bed and remove all signs of infection. Your nails grow back without infection, restoring their appearance and function.
If you’re ready to eradicate unsightly toenail fungus, set up an evaluation with Dr. Tauber by scheduling an appointment online or over at New Canaan Podiatry.