Common causes of toenail fungus (and tips for prevention)

preventing toenail fungusToenail fungus can be an embarrassing problem, resulting in thick, yellow toenails that don’t look pleasing with summer’s sandals and flip-flops. Toenail fungal infections are very common, affecting approximately 14 percent of the population.

Symptoms of a toenail fungal infection include nails that are yellowed, thickened, or that crumble. You may also notice a dull or darkened appearance. In severe cases, the nail may separate from the nail bed and may have a foul odor.

You can’t see fungi, but they’re everywhere. They love warm, moist environments, like showers and swimming areas. Although usually not serious, toenail fungal infections are difficult to treat, since the number of antifungal medications that can penetrate the nail bed is limited.

Here are some common causes of toenail fungus and ways you can prevent it.

Wet areas are a breeding ground for toenail fungus.

If your shoes are wet or damp, you could be inviting fungi into your nails. Even a tiny, microscopic cut in the skin or separation in the nail bed is enough to let fungi in, resulting in an infection. Wear dry shoes made of leather or canvas and socks that can breathe such as cotton or wool. Alternate shoes each day. If your feet tend to sweat, change socks twice daily.

Tight shoes? Here come the fungi.

Make sure your shoes aren’t too tight or too loose, which could smash your nails up against the inside and encourage contact with germs.

Fungi live in public areas — cover your feet!

Wear flip-flops or similar shoes to protect your feet in public showers, locker rooms, and restrooms. Fungi are rampant in these types of places — and by not protecting your feet, you also put yourself at risk for athlete's foot.

Regular pedicures can prevent toenail fungus. Seriously!

It’s the legitimate excuse to pamper your feet that you’ve longed for: Regular pedicures will help ensure that your toenails are healthy and fungus-free.

If you’re not interested in the fancy salon-style pedicures, you can manage just fine at home, too. Make sure you wash your feet at least once daily with soap and keep nails trimmed straight across. If you see dirt under your nails, try soaking them in clean, warm water for 10 minutes, and then gently clean them with a nail brush.

Dry skin on the foot is toenail fungi’s BFF.

Use a moisturizer on your feet to prevent cracking, but don’t apply between the nails where moisture can get trapped. Never cut cuticles or skin on your feet. Use a foot file for rough patches if needed.

If you have symptoms of a toenail fungal infection, it’s important to see your podiatrist. These infections cannot be treated without a prescription, and the symptoms may only continue to get worse without medical care. Call us at (913) 338-4440 or contact us online to schedule your appointment!

Tags: foot health,, foot care,, toenail fungus