Onychomycosis, better known as toenail fungus, is an infection underneath the surface of a nail that is caused by fungi. It commonly affects the toenails and causes symptoms such as yellowing of the nails, thickened and brittle toenails, white spots on the nail, foul odor, and pain when walking while wearing shoes. It can also change the shape of the nail bed. Onychomycosis can not only be unsightly but can lead to serious complications if left untreated.
Common Causes of Onychomycosis
Microscopic organisms like fungi cause onychomycosis. This infection develops if there are cracks in the nail or there was an injury to the nail bed and you came in contact with the fungi.
Risk Factors for Toenail Fungal Infection
- Weakened immune system
- History of athlete’s foot
- Older age
- Reduced blood circulation to the feet
- Frequently walk barefoot in public areas
- Nail injury or skin condition
Ways to Help Prevent Toenail Fungal Infections
According to a 2014 study published in The Journal of Clinical and Aesthetic Dermatology, onychomycosis affects nearly 15% of the population. Getting rid of toenail fungus is challenging and can take months because it resists treatment, so prevention is important.
How You Can Help Prevent Onychomycosis
- Wash your feet daily with mild soap and water.
- If you come into contact with an infected nail, wash your hands immediately to prevent the spread of infection.
- Always keep your feet dry, and make sure to dry your feet thoroughly after washing.
- Trim your toenails straight across, taking care not to cut the corners of the nails.
- Wear dry, cotton socks to protect your feet and wick away moisture.
- Choose shoes that allow your feet to breathe, and switch your shoes often.
- Always wear flip-flops or water shoes around public areas such as swimming pool decks, showers, and locker rooms.
- Never share bath towels or shoes with other people.
- Use care when getting pedicures; only choose nail salons that use proper safety and sterilization techniques.
- Sterilize any nail instruments you use at home.
- Discard any shoes that become worn.
- Sprinkle antifungal foot powder in your shoes and on your feet.
- Check your feet daily for any signs of fungus or other abnormalities.
When to See a Podiatrist
You should consult with a podiatrist at the first signs of a fungal infection. Not only can the problem be a cosmetic issue, but it can also lead to more severe issues. Toenail fungus can spread to other toes, so the faster you seek medical treatment for a fungal infection, the easier it will be to treat and clear up. If you have diabetes or a weakened immune system, it is essential to seek medical treatment as soon as possible to prevent more serious skin infections from developing. Untreated toenail fungus can cause permanent discoloration and deformity of the nail.
For some patients, treating a fungal toenail infection can be done at home using over-the-counter antifungal products such as creams or ointments. However, these products may temporarily help with the infection but may not prevent it from returning.
Podiatrist-Recommended Treatment for Onychomycosis
- Prescription topical cream
- Oral antifungal medication
- Medicated nail polish or nail cream
- Fungal nail laser treatment
Toenail fungus can often take months to clear up. For the most severe cases, a podiatrist may need to temporarily remove the toenail in order to apply an antifungal medication directly under the nail area. Surgery may be needed to remove the nail permanently for patients with reoccurring infections or those that cause extreme pain.
Are You Looking for a Toenail Fungus Specialist in Austin, TX?
If you are looking for toenail fungus care, you should reach out to an experienced podiatrist. Austin Foot and Ankle Specialists can help. Our office provides a wide variety of advanced, effective treatment options for all kinds of painful conditions. Ready to schedule an appointment? Contact us online or call our Austin office at 512.328.8900.