Toe Nail Fungus – Definition, Causes, Symptoms and Treatment

Fungal toenail infections are relatively common. Like other fungal foot infections (athlete’s foot), it’s thought that the fungus can be picked up while walking barefoot in locker rooms or public shower facilities. Fungal infections are very common on both fingernail and toenails. It is a living organism that thrives in dark, damp environments such as under and around nails. Toes are more likely to be affected by fungus since it is attracted to a dark and damp environment which is more common on the foot than on the hand. In more severe conditions, affected nails can have a yellowish or brownish discoloration. They may thicken or become brittle over time, and may even shed. Sometimes the nails have crumbling edges. It can be unsightly, disfiguring, embarrassing, and at times, painful. Symptoms of toenail fungus, which can be caused by several types of fungi, include swelling, yellowing, thickening or crumbling of the nail, streaks or spots down the side of the nail, and even complete loss of the nail. These fungi generally belong to a group of fungi called dermatophytes. As they grow they invade and feed on the protein (keratin) that makes up the hard surface of the toenails. The risk factors for developing toenail fungus are increasing age, male gender, nail trauma, sweaty feet, poor circulation, poor hygeine, foot fungus and a compromised immune system.

Toenail fungus can be picked up in damp areas such as public gyms, shower stalls or swimming pools, and can be passed among family members. The nail may crumble and eventually completely fall off, or it may become so thick that it is very painful to wear shoes. Athletes and people who wear tight-fitting shoes or tight hosiery that cause trauma to the toes or keep the feet from drying out are at higher risk. The condition can also spread from one toe to another, or to other parts of the body. Fungal infections can affect the fingernails as well as the toenails, but toenail fungus is more difficult to treat because toenails grow more slowly. It occurs most often on the big or small toe, but might occur on any toe. It is rare in children but the incidence increases as you age, with an estimated 48% of people in the United States having at least one toe affected by the time they are 70 years of age. Wearing tight-fitting shoes and layers of polish in the nails increases the risk of developing this. It can also be spread person to person in public areas such as locker rooms and showers.

Toenail fungus often becomes a chronic condition and if it is not painful many people do not get treatment. Surgical Removal of Toenail Fungus. Washing and thoroughly drying your feet really helps. The best shoes to wear are those that allow plenty of air and moisture exchange. Wearing nail polish on the toes is not advised because it can seal in fungus and allow it to grow. Keep toenails trimmed, and be sure to disinfect any pedicure tools before using them. There are some internal medications available as prescriptions such as itraconazole (Sporonox), fluconazole (Diflucan), griseofulvin (Fulvicin), and terfinabine (Lamisil), but they have been shown to sometimes have side effects such as upset stomach, headaches, and liver damage. Both medications can be quite expensive as they need to be taken once daily for 3 months. The effectiveness of the medications ranges from 60 to 80%, with a recurrence rate of 15%. Lamisil appears to be more effective and has fewer drug interactions than Sporonox.

Treatment and Prevention for Toe Nail Fungus Tips

1.Wear protective footwear (such as flip-flops or aqua shoes)

2.Use foot powder to help absorb moisture.

3.Wear clean socks each day.

4.Keep your toenails carefully trimmed.

5.Don’t share your pedicure tools with others.

6.Do not use nail polish until the disease is gone