Friday, October 21, 2011

Toenail Armageddon

I have a very common affliction. The scientific name is onychomycosis but we know it better as that yellow toenail fungus.  My mom had it, and my brother has it, so it seems to be something in our genetic makeup that leaves us susceptible to it.

Mine has been going on for a number of years, and I haven’t been too overly concerned about it.  Of course, I wish it weren’t there. It isn’t attractive and its embarrassing.  And since a lot of my work is done in bare feet, I don’t have the luxury of hiding my affliction from my colleagues inside socks and shoes.

I’ve looked into treatments, but the main one, Lamisil, is very hard on the liver and has some scary side effects that range from diarrhea, to losing your sense of taste, to liver failure and death.  All in all, I would prefer the yellow toenails.

I did attempt every ‘natural’ remedy I came across.  I tried tea tree oil, vinegar, hydrogen peroxide, clove oil, garlic and sunshine.  Some of them did keep the situation under control and some of them did nothing.  None of them cured it, but in all fairness, I never stuck to any treatment longer than a few weeks before losing interest and faith.

Recently, I had what I’ve come to call my Toenail Armageddon. A conflux of events all centered on my toenails that seemed to me to be a clear sign that something had to be done.

1- An oil blend that I was using contains cedar oil, so it has a yellow tint to it.  I had been using it for about two weeks and it has started to stain my toenails yellow (even the unaffected ones, which I was treating preventatively). 

2- The same oil blend contains clove oil, which my skin is very sensitive to, and it, combined with wearing my Vibrams Five Finger shoes in the rain, caused a rash to form on the top of my toe, just this side of my nail bed.  I’m not sure if it is an athlete’s foot type of rash or just a reaction to the oil and the friction.

3- I wore a pair of black socks after an application of this oil. The oil leeched the black dye from the socks and my toenails absorbed it, giving them a nice, ugly black ring around the perimeter, which really caused the yellow stain to pop.

4- The big toe nail on my left foot became ingrown; it lodged itself under my skin.  I had to dig out the corner of the nail, which left a gaping wound

5- During a Nia class, another dancer and I miscalculated our spacial relationship and we ended up trying to use the same section of the floor to stand on.  The end result was her heel jamming into the ends of my toes, creating a beautiful, painful, purple bruise in the middle toe.

6- The dry skin that I tend to keep under control with Keihl’s lotion, was going unattended due to the extra attention to the new oil treatment, so I was experiencing a renewed drying and cracking on my toes.

All this stuff came together in the same week and my toenails looked like they belonged in a zombie movie.
So it was at this time I decided I was going to ‘bite the bullet’ and take the awful medication.  I went to the doctor (by the way, she told me she’d seen much worse and didn’t seem phased by what I thought was horrific) and got a prescription for a generic version of Lamisil, which is Terbinafine.

My liver is healthy, and I don’t drink much alcohol (and can easily abstain for the three months while I’m taking the pills), so my doctor didn’t think it was necessary to do a liver function test before starting treatment.

I am aware of the list of side effects of this drug: Flu symptoms, diarrhea and muscle and/or joint aches are some of the less disturbing ones.  But there are also possibilities of losing ones sense of taste, liver failure and death.  I’m reassured that the more severe reactions are extremely rare and usually found only in people with compromised livers to start with. I've also read about people becoming lethargic and losing the desire to do strenuous exercise.  That's a major one for me, too. I'm hoping that doesn't happen.

So I started treatment three days ago.

Actually by the second day, I was seeing the rash (see #2 in my list above) disappear.

The first night after taking my first pill, I had severe night sweats.  I woke up in a puddle that soaked my sheets and my pillow.  I ended up sleeping on the floor near my bed because my sheets were too wet to lie on.  I didn't’ feel feverish, or chilly, but I was sure sweating.  To be fair, I also got a tetanus shot on that same doctor visit, so I don’t know if it was that or the Terbinafine that caused the night sweats.

The second night, I sweat again, but only very slightly.  And last night, the third night, I don’t know that I sweat at all.

So far the only other thing I’m noticing is that I have a very strong urge to defecate, and I’m sitting on the toilet about five or six times a day, as compared to my usual once or twice a day.

And this morning, I did feel just a little bit nauseous.  Nothing too terrible.   So far, I haven't tried to exercise, so I can't speak about that aspect.  But I'm planning to do a little workout today, so we'll see how that goes.

My plan is to follow the prescription, which is taking one pill a day for ninety days and then allowing the nails to grow out for another three months, without taking the drug. The treatment basically consists of six months, with three months on and three months off the med.

I hope I wont’ have any other side effects to report, but I do hope I’ll be posting a picture of some really great further progress.

This adventure is very hard for me.  Those of you who know me, know that I’m very highly opposed to the use of medicine.  This decision did not come lightly, but rather it seemed to me that the situation was insisting on drastic action.  I really believe in trusting these signs and signals that are presented to us, and my Toenail Armageddon was a sign.  I’m following it.

****************************UPDATE************************************

This is a picture of my toenails now, about a month later.


In all fairness, I want to say that they cleared up really quickly after starting the Lamisil.  About a week into the treatment, they looked almost like they do now.  And this is how my toenails have looked for years, before the aforementioned Armageddon. 

Does Lamisil work?  I still don't know.  I have two more months of taking the pills and then, according to my doctor, another three months to wait before all of the dead stuff grows out and I can expect clear, fresh toenails.

More to come as it develops.  Thanks for watching.

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