Toenail fungus is actually a fairly common nail condition, but we know it is still a source of tremendous embarrassment and self-consciousness for many people. Understanding the causes of the condition can help you prevent it from developing, whereas recognizing the symptoms will enable you to get the professional treatment you need for an existing fungal infection here at Advanced Foot and Ankle.
Toenail Fungus Causes and Symptoms
Fungi, molds, and yeasts known as dermatophytes cause fungal toenail conditions. These microscopic organisms can thrive in dark places and do not require sunlight to survive. The organisms usually reside in warm and damp environments, and they can enter the body through very tiny cuts and abrasions. If the conditions are right, the dermatophytes can attach to unprotected feet and stick around. Since feet tend to be generally quite warm and damp from their hundreds of thousands of sweat glands, the conditions down there are ripe for a fungal infection.
With regard to the symptoms of fungal nail infections, the most evident ones are the appearance of infected toenails. The nails often appear to be dark, dull, and discolored. The darkened color and lack of a normal, healthy shine can be attributed to debris building up underneath the nail. Affected toenails also tend to be brittle, thickened, and crumbly. In some cases, there might be a foul odor or an infected toenail will separate from its nailbed.
Fungal Toenail Treatment and Prevention
With regard to treatment for toenail fungus prevention, a good starting point is to try some home care. If you have contracted a mild infection, or are fortunate to catch it early enough, you might be able to handle it on your own. Home care typically consists of using store-bought antifungal products to clear the condition. To better improve the effectiveness of this process, you will need to trim and thin the affected nails with a file and nail clippers before applying the product. This will enable the antifungal agent to penetrate deeper into the nail tissue.
Over-the-counter products can be worth trying, but they are not always effective at clearing up the infection. This means there is a decent chance you will ultimately need professional treatment from our practice. We do offer a couple of different options we can use to clear your infection, including oral and topical medications.
Oral and topical medications each use a different approach to remedy the issue. Oral pills attack the offensive microorganisms from within the body, whereas topical medication works from the outside. A combination of both can provide an effective one-two punch to eliminate the problem.
We can certainly provide treatment for fungal nails, but there are measures you can take to prevent the condition from arising in the first place:
- Wash your feet daily. Use mild soap and warm water every day to wash away potential contaminants. After washing your feet, always be sure to thoroughly dry them (between your toes) before putting on your socks and shoes to avoid dampness.
- Wear moisture-wicking socks. Certain fabrics are better at keeping feet dry than others, especially those that wick away excess moisture. Keeping your feet dry is an important part of toenail fungus prevention, so be sure to choose socks made from nylon, wool, or polypropylene.
- Choose breathable footwear. Buy close-toed shoes that allow your feet to breathe and wear sandals and open-toed footwear whenever possible.
- Change out of damp socks. If you have hyperhidrosis—a condition that causes excessive sweating—or are working out, keep a dry set of socks handy to change into if the pair you are wearing becomes damp.
- Protect your feet in public areas. Pool decks, locker rooms, and gym showering areas are some places where the offensive fungi can be found. When walking in any of these places, wear clean sandals or shower shoes to protect your feet. Also, bring your own and do not borrow someone else’s.