The first sign is often a yellow or white spot that shows up just beneath the toenail. It appears innocuous at first, but over time the symptoms worsen and seem to spread. Could it be toenail fungus? And should you be concerned about your foot? The good news is that toenail fungus is a common and easily treatable condition, but identifying it is the first step.
When a nail thickens, becomes discolored, develops a crumbly or distorted shape, or lifts from the nail bed, it’s often a sign of a fungal infection. But because irregularities in the nail may have other causes as well, it’s a good idea to have a medical professional check out your foot. In addition to a physical examination, your doctor may take a small clipping from your nail and have it lab tested to confirm the diagnosis.
Your doctor will also be able to prescribe an antifungal treatment, although if caught early enough, an over-the-counter treatment may be enough to resolve the infection. Some patients use home remedies like hydrogen peroxide, baking soda, vinegar, garlic, or even snakeroot extract to treat toenail fungus, although not all of those solutions are medically proven. Treating toenail fungus is not that difficult, but it’s best if you can prevent it in the first place.
How to Keep Your Foot Fungus Free
Keep Your Nails Trimmed
Keeping your nails clipped short prevents debris and fungi from accumulating or becoming trapped beneath them. Clipped nails are also less prone to other injuries. Clipping your nails straight across is a great way of keeping them strong and avoiding ingrown toenails.
Choose Your Footwear Carefully
Fungi thrive in a warm, moist environment like the one found inside hot, sweaty shoes. One way of preventing these types of infections is to select breathable footwear and, if possible, give your shoes plenty of time to air out between uses. Some individuals who struggle with regular toenail infections even alternate the shoes they wear each day so that each piece of footwear can fully dry.
Moisture-wicking socks are a good option if you’re worried about infections, and applying an antifungal spray or powder to the inside of your shoes can help keep them dry. Wearing properly fitting footwear that doesn’t encroach on the nails is also important.
Be Careful When Going Barefoot
There’s nothing more carefree than walking barefoot. But if you want to avoid toenail infections, it’s a good idea to refrain from walking barefoot on public surfaces around pools, in locker rooms, and in public showers. Why? Because fungi that cause various skin conditions and infections may linger on those surfaces. If wearing shoes on those surfaces isn’t practical, consider sandals, flip flops, or shower shoes.
Don’t Swap Shoes or Nail Clippers
Only wear your own shoes, and never borrow nail clippers from someone else. This ensures that you won’t be exposed unnecessarily to fungi. And if you’re visiting a salon for a pedicure or other nail services, look around and make sure they are sanitizing the equipment and washbasins between each use. If you’re not comfortable with the level of cleanliness you see, seek another option.
Wash Your Hands and Feet Regularly
Washing your hands and feet often, and keeping your skin and nails moisturized, is another good way to ward off nail infections. Skin and nails that are dry and cracked are likely to allow fungi to enter and take hold. And if you’re in the process of coping with an infected nail, be sure to wash your hands each time after you’ve touched or treated it.
Who Is at Greatest Risk?
Toenail infections are more common than fingernail infections, and several factors can increase your risk of experiencing this condition. Older individuals tend to be at greater risk, partly because blood flow tends to slow with age, and nail growth also slows. And older patients, simply because they’ve been around longer, are also more likely to have been exposed to fungi along the way. In some cases, these infections seem to run in families.
Individuals who have diabetes, circulation difficulties, psoriasis, or a weakened immune system are also at greater risk. If you sweat heavily, walk frequently in damp communal areas, or if you have a history of athlete’s foot, you may also be more likely to experience a toenail infection.
But by following a few simple steps, you can keep toenail infections at bay. For more information on foot health, check out the helpful resources at Aging Healthy Today.