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Understanding Toenail Fungus

Summer is on its way, and that means breaking out your sandals and hanging out with friends and family by the pool. But if you have toenail fungus, this time of year may make you feel self-conscious about your feet. Your once favorite flip-flops may now be the source of discomfort and hesitation. The good news is it doesn’t have to be that way.

Our team at North Central Texas Foot & Ankle, with offices in Decatur and Roanoke, Texas,  believes that if you understand how toenail fungus comes about, you’ll be able to recognize it sooner and knock it out before it gets worse. This blog covers everything you need to know about toenail fungus, from prevention to treatment.

Causes of toenail fungus

Toenail fungus is a common nail infection that stems from various kinds of fungal organisms, molds, or yeast. The fungus that causes athlete’s foot can spread to your toenails, and it can also spread from one toe to another. Warm, damp environments provide the perfect home for toenail fungus, and once it’s settled in, it can be hard to get rid of.

The effects it can have on your nails aren’t pretty. Toenail fungus usually shows up as white spots on your nail or yellow discolorationt. If left untreated, it can cause the nail to thicken, crumble, and even separate from the nail bed.

There are certain risk factors for developing toenail fungus:

If you have any of these risk factors, especially diabetes, you should pay close attention to your feet. Check them regularly for any injuries or changes in your skin or nails. If something seems off, it’s best to schedule an appointment with one of our expert providers to get it checked out.

Diagnosis and treatment

When you come in for an appointment with Samantha Childers, DPM or Ricky Childers, DPM, you’re given a thorough examination to assess the issue. Further testing may be necessary to determine the type of nail infection you have, including getting a tissue sample to send for a biopsy. Treatment depends on the test results and which form of medication is best for you.

Toenail fungus can be treated in multiple ways, from over-the-counter remedies to surgery. You may find some relief from nonprescription antifungal creams or ointments that can be found at your local drugstore. If those are unsuccessful, your podiatrist can prescribe something stronger.

Oral antifungal medications can get rid of the infection quickly but can have side effects that range from inconvenient to dangerous. If this treatment is determined to be the most effective in your case, you may need to be monitored with occasional blood tests. Medicated nail polish or cream can be effective, but can take months to clear the infection and produce visible results.

If your infection is severe and causing pain or other complications, it may be necessary to temporarily remove the nail and apply medication directly to the infected nail bed. If none of these approaches work, your podiatrist may recommend permanently removing the nail.

Prevention

The best way to treat toenail fungus is to prevent it entirely. That may sound nearly impossible, but you can take some easy steps to reduce your risk.

When heading out to the community pool, bring some flip-flops or pool shoes. Similarly, bring shower shoes along if you’re showering at the gym or another public place. Foot care is very important, so make sure to wash your feet regularly and moisturize afterward. When it’s time to cut your nails, cut them straight across and smooth any sharp edges with a nail file.

Footwear can make all the difference. Find shoes that fit well and are made of breathable materials. Treat old shoes with antifungal powder or disinfectant, or toss them if they can’t be saved. If your feet tend to sweat a lot, get socks that wick away sweat, or change them throughout the day.

Lastly, when you’re in need of some pampering, look for a nail salon that sterilizes their manicure tools before each use. Opt for natural nails and skip the polish this time, and avoid using artificial nails.

Healthy feet are happy feet. If you suspect you have toenail fungus, don’t wait for it to spread. Call one of our offices today to schedule an appointment, or book one online.

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