What is Toenail Fungus?
Toenail fungus, known by physicians as onychomycosis, affects about half of Americans by the age of 70. It is relatively rare in children, as the incidence increases with age. Fungus infections occur when microscopic fungi gain entry through a small trauma in the nail, then grow and spread in the warm, moist environment inside the patient’s socks and shoes.
What are symptoms of toenail fungus?
Symptoms of toenail fungus include swelling, yellowing, thickening, or crumbling of the nail, streaks or spots down the side of the nail, and even complete loss of the nail. Toenail color can vary from brown or yellow to white.
Fungal infections can affect the fingernails as well as the toenails, but toenail fungus is more difficult to treat because toenails grow more slowly. It occurs most often on the big or small toe, but might occur on any toe.
What causes toenail fungus?
Toenail fungus can be picked up in damp areas such as public gyms, shower stalls, or swimming pools, and can be passed among family members. Athletes and people who wear tight-fitting shoes or tight hosiery that cause trauma to the toes or keep the feet from drying out are at higher risk. Toenail fungus can also spread from one toe to another, or to other parts of the body.
Other risk factors include abnormal pH level of the skin, not drying feet thoroughly after bathing or exercise, and compromised immune systems, especially among diabetics. Diabetics should have their nails cut and debrided by a podiatrist.
How do you treat and prevent toenail fungus?
Since eradicating toenail fungus is difficult, prevention is preferred. Methods of prevention include wearing protective shoes or sandals in public showers, pool areas, and gyms, and avoiding sharing shoes, socks, or towels with someone who has toenail fungus.
Wash feet regularly and dry them thoroughly. Toenail polish is not recommended, as it can seal in fungus and allow it to grow. Keep toenails trimmed and disinfect pedicure tools before use.
If you do develop toenail fungus, your foot doctor might remove as much of the nail as possible by trimming, filing, or dissolving. Medicated nail polish might be prescribed for a localized infection, but a serious infection will likely be treated with a prescription oral antifungal medication. Medications can have side effects, so work closely with your doctor on your treatment plan. Surgical removal of the nail may be recommended only in severe cases.
If you suspect you have toenail fungus, see your doctor.
Can shoes give you toenail fungus?
If you have toenail fungus and wear your shoes barefoot, you can transfer the fungus back to your nails after you have treated it. It is best to either treat the shoes with an anti-fungal powder or purchase new shoes to limit reinfection.
Does wearing sandals help toenail fungus?
Wearing sandals helps keep feet dry and cool and the soles of feet protected, which can help minimize toenail fungus.
Courtesy of foot.com