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toenail fungus

Onychomycosis is a fungal infection that occurs in nails—most commonly in the toenails. While this type of infection affects many people every year, some people are more likely to contract it than others. Fungal toenails are more likely to occur in people who have:

  • A nail injury
  • Diabetes
  • A foot deformity
  • A weakened immune system
  • Poor circulation in the legs
  • Other fungal infections

Symptoms of Fungal Toenails

Although toenail fungus is not a serious condition for most people, it can be problematic to those with diabetes or circulatory disorders.

A toenail with a fungal infection may become:

  • Thickened
  • Brittle
  • Fragile
  • Cracked
  • Discolored
  • Distorted
  • Foul smelling
  • Separated from the nail bed

In some cases, the skin around the toenail may become painful and swollen. If left untreated, the infected toenail may make it make it difficult to wear shoes or walk.

Getting or Preventing a Fungal Toenail Infection

Damp, warm environments such as locker rooms, public showers, and shoes, and surfaces like nail clippers and towels provide a hospitable habitat for a variety of fungi. These fungal organisms can gain access to a toenail through tiny cracks.

Getting a Fungal Toenail Infection: A person is more susceptible to contracting a fungal toenail infection if they have:

  • A nail injury
  • Diabetes
  • A weakened immune system
  • Poor circulation
  • Other fungal infections

Preventing a Fungal Toenail Infection: Fungal toenail infections can often be prevented by:

  • Keeping toenails and fingernails trimmed and clean
  • Never walking barefoot in locker rooms, public showers, or pool areas
  • Never sharing shoes or socks with someone
  • Never sharing nail clippers or other pedicure tools
  • Ensuring that nail salons sanitize tools and foot baths properly

Diagnosing and Treating Fungal Toenails

A podiatrist can diagnose a fungal toenail by assessing symptoms as well as sampling and testing nail clippings to confirm the type of fungus causing the infection.

Fungal toenail infections rarely go away on their own and can be very difficult to treat at home. The fungi can burrow themselves between the many layers that make up a toenail, as well as underneath the nail. They are often resistant to over-the-counter topical creams as well.

A podiatrist can treat the infection effectively and thoroughly with prescription anti-fungal medications and creams. They may alternatively use a special laser that passes light energy through the nail and under the nail bed to target and eradicate the fungi. In certain cases, the nail may need to be surgically removed.

It is important to have a fungal nail infection diagnosed and treated by a podiatrist as early as possible, when it is easier to treat, and before it has the potential to spread to other parts of the body.


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