Nail fungus is a common condition that begins as a white or yellow spot under your fingernail or, more commonly, your toenail. As the infection deepens, nail fungus may cause your nail to discolor, thicken and crumble at the edge, and it can affect several nails.
Toenail fungal infections are most commonly caused by microscopic organisms called dermatophytes. These organisms feed on keratin, the protein found in your nails and hair. Additionally, yeast and molds can also cause nail infections, and according to a recent study, nail infections affect about 14 percent of the population.
If your condition is mild and not particularly bothersome, you may not need treatment. But if it’s painful and has caused thickened nails, self-care steps and medications may help. But even if treatment is successful, nail fungus often comes back.
Factors that can increase your risk of developing nail fungus include:
- Being older, because of decreased blood flow, more years of exposure to fungi, and slower-growing nails
- Sweating heavily
- Having a history of athlete’s foot which can spread to the nails
- Walking barefoot in damp communal areas like public swimming pools, gyms, locker rooms, and hotel rooms
- Having a minor skin or nail injury or a skin condition like psoriasis
- Having diabetes, circulation problems, or a weakened immune system
A severe case of nail fungus can be painful and may cause permanent damage to your nails. And it may lead to other serious infections that can spread beyond your feet to other parts of your body, especially if you have diabetes or you’re taking medications that suppress the immune system.
In particular, if you’re diabetic and think you’re developing nail fungus, you should see your doctor immediately.
Tips to Prevent Nail Infections
These eight healthy habits can help prevent nail fungus and reinfections.
- Wash your hands and feet regularly, and moisturize your feet after washing.
- Trim your nails straight across and smooth the edges with a file. Disinfect your clippers each time you use them.
- Wear properly fitted shoes. The American Academy of Family Physicians recommends buying shoes with a wide shoe box that won’t cramp your feet.
- Choose breathable footwear. The more air that circulates your feet, the less susceptible you’ll be to toenail fungus. Your best bets are shoes made of leather or canvas.
- Alternate your shoes. If possible, invest in several good pairs of shoes and rotate wearing them, allowing each pair to dry thoroughly before wearing them again.
- Avoid going barefoot in public places. Public pools, locker rooms and showers, and hotel rooms are loaded with fungi waiting to infect your toenails. In these places, always try to wear sandals, flip-flops or shower shoes.
- Disinfect regularly. Scrub your shower and disinfect with a bleach-based cleanser, and wash all socks in hot water with bleach.
- If you go to a nail salon, choose one that uses sterilized instruments for each customer, and consider giving up nail polish and artificial nails.
Contact Us with Questions!
As always, our team at Alpine Foot Specialists is here to help! Get in touch with our team if you have any questions about fungal nail infections.