What is Toenail Fungus?
Onychomycosis, commonly referred to as toenail fungus, is an infection underneath the surface of the nail, caused by fungus. You may notice the nail becoming darker in colour and emitting an odour – it is best to start treatment right away to minimize the spread of the fungus to health toenails. If left untreated, long-term effects can impair your ability to walk or run and make it increasingly painful to wear shoes. This type of fungal infection can also be accompanied by a secondary bacterial or yeast infection, in or about the nail plate.
Your feet are especially vulnerable in or around damp areas where you are likely to walk around barefoot, such as swimming pools, locker rooms, or showers. Injury to the nail can increases your susceptibility to all types of infection, including fungal infections. Those who suffer from chronic diseases such as diabetes, circulatory problems or immune-deficiency conditions are especially more prone to fungal infections, and extra protection and preventative measures should be taken accordingly to prevent such infections as they can result in increased severity of the infection, where the risk wouldn’t typically be present in healthy patients. Other contributing factors may include a history of athlete’s foot, or excessive perspiration of the foot, which can be brought on by a number of causes.
Symptoms and Treatment Options
Toenail fungus is often ignored because the infection can be present for months or years at a time without causing significant pain. The disease is characterized by a progressive change in the structure and colour of the toenail, which can lead to an un-aesthetic look about the infected nail.
A daily routine of cleaning over many months may temporarily suppress a mild infection. While the markings that appear on the surface can be filed off, that doesn’t solve the root of the problem, so it is suggested that you follow up with an over the counter liquid antifungal agent. While this might solve the problem temporarily, there is no guarantee that the fungal infection won’t arise again, so keeping a close eye on the nail is important to prevent any further spread of the infection. You should visit a podiatrist when you notice any discolouration, thickening or deformity in your nails. The earlier you seek the help of a professional, the greater your chance of getting your nails healthy again.
Treatments vary depending upon the nature and severity of the infection. Your podiatrist can detect a fungal infection early, and can prescribe you the best treatment option for your case.
Proper hygiene and regular inspection of the feet and toes are the first and best lines of defence against fungal infections. Clean and dry feet resist disease.
- Wash your feet with soap and water, remembering to dry thoroughly.
- Wear shower shoes when possible in public areas.
- Change shoes, socks, or hosiery more than once daily.
- Clip toenails straight across so that the nail does not extend beyond the tip of the toe.
- Wear shoes that fit well and are made of materials that breathe.
- Avoid wearing excessively tight hosiery to decrease moisture.
- Wear socks made of synthetic fiber that “wicks” moisture away from your feet faster than cotton or wool socks do.
- Disinfect instruments used to cut nails.
- Disinfect home pedicure tools.
- Don’t apply polish to nails suspected of infection (those that are discoloured, for example).