Can toenail fungus cause pain and swelling? You’ve probably already figured out that the answer is yes! Nail fungus (onychomycosis) attacks your toenails through small cuts in the skin around your nail or through the opening between your nail and nail bed. It can lead to a change to the nail texture, thickening, discomfort, and a foul smell.
An infection could lead to a severe problem if you have a weak immune system or diabetes. If you have complications, and you notice a fungal toenail infection, then you need to find the best way to treat toenail fungus without delay. Early treatment yields the best results!
Fungi grow the fastest in warm, moist places, and they can spread from one person to another. You can get infected from walking barefoot in public showers or pools or by sharing personal items, such as towels and nail clippers.
This in-depth guide will address all of your concerns. We’ll look at how and why toenail fungus hurts so much before exploring ways to ease the pain and get rid of toenail fungus for good.
Table of Contents:
- 1 Can Toenail Fungus Cause Pain and Swelling?
- 1.1 Toenail Fungus Health Problems
- 1.2 Symptoms of Toenail Fungus
- 1.3 How to Relieve Pain from Toenail Fungus
- 1.4 Read Our Latest Posts:
Can Toenail Fungus Cause Pain and Swelling?
The short answer is a definite “yes.” Toenail fungus may not cause a great deal of pain (or any pain, for that matter) at the beginning stages. But, allowing toenail fungus to go unchecked can lead to considerable pain and discomfort.
Toenail fungus hurts when the nail becomes very thick and misshapen. The large size of the toenails can make it difficult to stand or walk while wearing shoes. Because they are so cramped, the nails are pushed back inwards. This can cause them to cut into the skin or rub it and leave it inflamed.
The infection in the nails can spread to other parts of the body, specifically other nails on the foot. It can also result in a well-known condition called athlete’s foot (ringworm of the foot). It is characterized by itchy feet and cracked red skin.
Toenail Fungus Health Problems
The problems only get worse from there, especially if there are other issues on top of the baseline foot, toe and nail fungus. Let’s take a look at some of the complications that can arise from a fungal infection.
Toenail fungus can spread to the skin in general and cause cracking. Bacteria can make its way into these small cracks and turn the skin red and tender. Swelling can also occur, and the only way that this condition can be treated is via antibiotics.
This condition is called cellulitis. While red, cracked and tender skin can be annoying, the more serious problems that can come from it are far more alarming. Cellulitis can spread to the bloodstream. This can cause the wound to become septic, which is potentially fatal. This can all begin with a simple nail infection. That’s why treating these kinds of infections is of the utmost importance.
There’s another condition associated with toenail fungal infection called onycholysis. Toenails that are infected with various kinds of fungus can potentially separate from the nail bed. This causes the nail to be far looser than if it was correctly attached. If this is the case, the nail can cause severe pain if it catches on something.
Sometimes, more serious treatments may be required. The most severe example is the complete removal of the nail in a procedure called an avulsion. Other times, the nail is destroyed and removed in a procedure called a matrixectomy.
This destroys the place from which the nail grows (the growing center, or matrix). This can be done via surgery or using chemicals, and the nail will never grow back if a matrixectomy is used. This is only done if the infection cannot be corrected.
Symptoms of Toenail Fungus
About half of all adults over the age of 70 have a fungal infection in their toenails. These infections can cause the entire nail to become yellow in color, or it can just cause yellow spots. Sometimes, the nail develops white patches or, on more rare occasions, turns black.
The cause tends to be dermatophytes. They eat keratin to grow, and keratin is a primary ingredient in skin and toenails, making them ideal breeding grounds for this kind of fungus. Some medical conditions make it easier to catch this fungus, including diabetes, peripheral vascular disease or other various autoimmune diseases. These cause a loss of lower circulation in the legs and feet, making fungi more likely to grow.
Here are the most common symptoms:
- Nails become thickened and discolored, as well as brittle and crumbly.
- Their shape will become distorted, and debris will build up underneath the nails, causing them to be dark yellow or brown.
- The infection produces an unpleasant odor.
If you experience all three of these symptoms, then it’s likely that you have a fungal infection- and it’s about time that you did something to stop the pain.
How to Relieve Pain from Toenail Fungus
Most of the things that you do to stop the pain correlate strongly to getting of toenail fungus, which is a good thing. Let’s take a look…
Treat It Like Any Other Injury
This involves treating it like a cut, scrape or bruise. After all, your toenail is physically damaged. You can take care of it like you would another wound.
Here’s how you can immediately reduce pain and treat your infection:
- Make sure you clear away any debris. Toenail fungal infections produce a lot of debris and buildup. This is from dead skin and keratin that the infection ‘eats.’ This debris will get caught underneath your nail, around the sides of your nail, and generally around the area. This spreads the infection, so it’s crucial that you clean it away regularly.
- Sterilize the wound. Any open wound can become infected with a bacteria. So, make sure that any open wound is correctly sterilized. Using a sterilizing agent will kill off some of the fungal spores, too.
- Wrap it in a breathable bandage or dressing. If your nail is continually getting caught on things, dress it. A simple bandage can prevent anything from aggravating your symptoms, and chipping away further at your nail. Do bear in mind, though, that fungal infections love warm and moist conditions, so allow your feet to breathe as much as possible when you’re not at work.
- Change the dressing regularly. Since fungal infections like moist conditions, you must change the dressing on your infection frequently. The same goes for any injury, fungal infection included.
Wear Shoes That Aren’t Tight
Shoes that are too tight put pressure on the infected toenails. This can be incredibly painful, especially over the course of a long day. Wearing shoes which are overly tight can cause ‘toenail trauma,’ where the nail cuts into the skin instead of growing straight out.
It’s, therefore, important to counteract this problem by wearing looser-fitting shoes. Slip-on shoes and sandals are better options than any shoe that squashes the toes together, like high heels.
Squashing the toes against one another can also aid in spreading your infection, so must be avoided.
Consider the following points:
- You may find it best to buy new shoes altogether. There are shoes designed for people with wider feet, which may benefit you.
- Don’t wear socks that are too bulky, i.e., winter socks. Wearing these means that your toes have less room to move inside your shoe.
- Tight socks can make the pain worse by putting extra pressure on the toes. Spend as much time as you can wearing thin, breathable socks for sweaty feet. Alternatively, don’t wear socks at all.
Keep Nails Trimmed Properly
Keeping your nails trimmed short is good hygienic practice whether you have a fungal infection or not. If your toe is infected, not doing so can also cause you additional pain. Long jagged toenails will catch on your socks and shoes. This will hasten the progress of the infection, and make your pain a lot worse.
As the nail gets thicker, properly trimming becomes difficult. Buy your own thick toenail cutters – don’t share them with others!
Here’s a quick guide to trimming your nails at different stages of the condition.
- Early stages: If your fungal infection is in the early stages, it should still be relatively easy to trim your nail. The most important thing to do is keep your clippers sterilized so that you don’t spread the infection further, or to somebody else.
- If your nail is crumbling: Crumbly nails make trimming a real task. However, it can still be done if you go slowly. Cut straight across from one side to the other, a little at a time. Cutting bit by bit will prevent splits and cracks from forming.
- If your nail is thick: If your nail is very thick, this can make clipping them nigh on impossible. But, again, it can be done—just not with regular clippers. You can buy heavy-duty clippers online that can get through the thickest nail. If this is the case, you may also want to buy nail softening cream. Again, cut directly from one side to the other, not in a curve.
Apply a Numbing Cream
With regard to treating the pain of your infection, you may benefit from a numbing cream. There are many different kinds available; some natural, some pharmaceutical. Take a look:
- Bengay is a cream made with three active natural ingredients: camphor, methyl salicylate, and menthol. Methyl salicylate warms an area up (like Deep Heat) whereas menthol cools it down. Together they create a unique sensation that overrides pain. Because of the nature of the gel, it also penetrates down beneath the skin and nail.
- Lidocaine is a well-known local anesthetic, which is a major active ingredient of many different creams.
- Benzocaine is the most rapid of pain relief creams. It works almost immediately once you apply it to an area.
- Topracin is a natural alternative that contains both belladonna and echinacea.
Use Tea Tree Oil
Tea tree oil is the perfect choice for treating the fungus under your toenail. It provides a similar cooling sensation to menthol when applied to the skin. This makes it a quality alternative to many menthol-based creams and gels.
The main benefit of using tea tree oil is that it’s also naturally anti-fungal. When you apply it to a fungal spore, the spore shrivels up and dies. However, since fungal infections lie deep in the nail, this can take a long time. You have to be prepared to use tea tree oil for months if you want to get rid of fungus for good.
If you want to use tea tree oil for nail fungus, follow this guide:
- As always, clean and disinfect the area before applying anything to it.
- With a potent oil like tea tree oil, you should normally dilute it. However, toenail fungus is very difficult to treat, so you may want to apply it undiluted. Whether you dilute it or not, do a patch test first. You should apply a very small amount to an unimportant patch of skin and wait a day to see if you experience an allergic reaction.
Apply two or three times daily and allow the oil to air dry. If you want an over-the-counter alternative, we recommend the Purely Northwest Toenail Fungus System. This will enable you to attack the fungus in three different ways!
Treating your pain can be helped with a simple numbing cream. It can provide relief for hours from toenail fungus and toe pain. But, if you want a real, long-lasting solution, you should look to treat the condition.