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Toenail fungus — what is it and what can you do about it?

Causes of toenail fungus

Fungal infections of the feet and toenails, including “athlete’s foot,” are most frequently spread through exposure to fungus in warm, damp areas, particularly in locker rooms and around swimming pools. The most common cause of toenail and foot fungal infections is simply having your bare skin come in contact with these areas by walking barefoot. Because the fungi are tiny, you may not know you’ve been infected for some time. If you have an injury to the toenail, area around the nail, or the foot, you are at much higher risk of contracting a fungal infection. Those with diabetes, circulatory disorders, or immune deficiencies are at higher risk of contracting toenail fungus.

Prevention of toenail fungus

Foot hygiene is your first line of defense against toenail fungus. Prevention starts with keeping your feet dry and clean, as well as avoiding potentially infectious situations. Each time you shower or bathe, wash your feet thoroughly using soap and water. Clean around and between the toes, and dry your feet and areas between the toes thoroughly. If you belong to a gym or spend time at the pool or beach, wear sandals or shower shoes whenever possible — especially in locker rooms and on pool decks.

Change your socks or other hosiery daily, and if you participate in sports or other activities that cause your feet to sweat or become wet, change your socks as many times per day as necessary to keep your feet and toes dry. The same goes for your shoes. Also, make sure that your socks or hosiery aren’t too tight, and look for synthetic materials that wick moisture away from the skin and help keep your feet dry. Buy shoes that fit properly and are constructed for breathability.

When it comes to caring for your toenails, clip the toenails straight across and ensure that the nail does not extend beyond the edge of the toe. If you use nail polish, avoid applying it to any toes that are infected or that you suspect may be infected, and make sure that your toenail clippers and any pedicure tools are disinfected before every use. If you rely on someone else to care for your toenails and help with your foot care, be sure that they are following these steps.

Treatment for toenail fungus

While there are many over-the-counter treatment options for toenail fungus, visit your podiatrist at Kansas City Foot Specialists to verify that your infection is being caused by a fungus. Over-the-counter antifungal treatments may help clear up your infection, but will not prevent the infection from coming back. Ideally, you should visit your podiatrist as soon as you notice any changes in your toenails such as thickening, discoloration, or deformity. The earlier you seek treatment, the faster you will be on your way to healing. Trying to treat your toenail fungus without the help of a podiatrist can potentially lead to additional complications and may result in the fungus spreading to other parts of the body.

To determine the best treatment option for your infection, your podiatrist will start by inspecting your toenails and feet, and may take a small sample from the infected area for closer examination. Your treatment will depend largely on how widespread the infection has become and on the severity of symptoms. Treatment for toenail fungus may include prescription topical or oral medications, removal of the diseased nail, or removal of foreign matter that may have collected under or around the nail. Some patients may even benefit from a combination of treatments. In severe cases, surgery may be required, but typically only after other measures have failed to be effective. It is important to note that to have lasting results, your treatment may last up to several months or more.

To have your feet or toes evaluated for possible fungal infection, call Kansas City Foot Specialists today at (913) 338-4440. We look forward keeping you on your feet and moving forward, one foot in front of the other.