Avoiding Fungal Toenails

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Part of our goal at New York Foot Health is educating patients about common foot disorders and how to prevent them. Conditions that don’t cause pain or discomfort are often ignored and fungal toenails fall into this category. Although it may take a long time, toenail fungus can make nails unattractive as they become discolored, thickened and crumbly. Eventually, the infection can cause pain and spread to other parts of the body.

Also known as onychomycosis, this infection is caused by fungi that get under the surface of the nail. In addition to causing the nail to become darker in color, you may notice what looks like debris collecting under the nail plate and the toe may give off a foul smell. Fungi thrive in damp places. Risk factors for fungal toenails include:

•Injury to the nail bed

•Pressure from footwear

•Having a chronic disease such as a circulatory problem, diabetes or an immune-deficiency condition

•Excessive perspiration

•History of athlete’s foot

Treatment and Prevention

There are a number of treatment options available for fungal toenails including topical and oral medications and debridement—the removal of debris and the diseased portion of the nail. Your podiatrist will be able to determine the best course of treatment for you based on the severity of the infection and the type of fungus causing it. If you do not have a foot doctor we can help you find a qualified podiatrist in your area.

Of course, the best scenario is avoiding a fungal nail infection altogether. There are a number of ways that you can prevent or at least greatly reduce your risk of contracting an infection:

•Wash your feet with soap and water every day and dry them completely (don’t forget the spaces between your toes).

•Keep feet covered in public places. Wear shower shoes or flip-flops at the gym, community pool and nail salon.

•Choose shoes made of breathable materials and be sure they are not too tight.

•If your feet are prone to sweating change your socks or hose more than once a day.

•Use a foot powder to help keep feet dry.

•Keep toenails clipped short and straight across with no curved edges.

•Wear socks made of fibers that “wick” moisture away from your feet.

•Disinfect nail clippers and pedicure tools.

•Don’t share towels, shoes, nail brushes and other items that touch other people’s feet.

To learn more about fungal nails and other foot and ankle issues contact us or subscribe to our free e-newsletter.