Toenail fungus is often considered a cosmetic issue, simply resulting in unsightly nails. However, left untreated, it can evolve into much more of a problem. Your nail can become thick, discolored, misshapen, brittle and crumbly, and even emit a foul smell. In addition, the infection can easily spread to the skin and other nails and end up causing pain while walking, and even just wearing shoes. It is stubborn, too, and quite difficult to eliminate. The good news is, just knowing some facts about toenail fungus can help you fight it before it takes hold.
How the Fungus Finds You
Also referred to as onychomycosis, fungal toenails are actually quite common, and if you consider the causes you will know why. All it takes is an injury to your toenail, or even the slightest tear in the skin beneath it, to open the door for tiny organisms called dermophytes to enter and cause an infection. Those who live with diabetes or who have poor circulation are especially prone to the problem. Excessive sweat and going barefoot in warm, damp places like locker rooms and pools can lead to it as well. The worst part is, once the fungi take hold, they will not want to leave—like unwanted guests who overstay their welcome!
Fending it off
Fortunately there are precautions you can take to keep toenail fungus at bay. Make sure your feet stay clean and dry, and always slip on shower shoes or sandals in public places where fungi thrive, like saunas, gyms, pools, locker rooms, and showers. Also, clip toenails straight across and no shorter or longer than the tips of your toes. It’s a good idea to disinfect your pedicure tools, too. To cut down on perspiration, invest in moisture-wicking socks and make sure your shoes fit well and are made of breathable materials. You can also treat your feet and your footwear with anti-fungal spray or powders.
Fighting the Fungi
If you do see signs of toenail fungus, like white spots and discoloration of your nail, get treatment right away. The faster you begin the fight against fungi, the better the chance you have of winning! There are over-the-counter options, including topical anti-fungal ointments, polishes, and creams, but these tend to be ineffective in most cases. We can prescribe stronger, oral medication, or remove the infected part of the nail and debris in a process called debridement. Laser treatment is another option that pinpoints the problem and destroys it without harming any surrounding tissues. In severe cases, the nail can be surgically removed to ensure the infection will not return.
If you are struggling with fungal toenails and are tired of waging war against them, Pequest Foot and Ankle Specialists can help alleviate the problem and keep it from coming back. Make an appointment by calling (908) 475-8750 or by using our online request form. You can also visit our office in Belvidere, NJ. We are happy to help keep your feet and nails healthy and strong!