How To Prevent Both Foot And Toenail Fungus
While toenail fungus and foot fungus arent the same condition, the following tips can help you prevent both, says Sundling:
- Practice good hygiene, such as keeping your feet clean.
- Alternate your shoes during the week. Your feet sweat all day long. Alternating your shoes allows them to dry out, so the fungus cant survive.
- Wear moisture-wicking socks that help dry out shoes and kill fungus. You can find these at running stores and athletic stores. If your socks are exceptionally sweaty, changing them more than once per day can help.
- Wear shoes in public places like locker rooms, pools, and gyms to limit exposure to fungus.
There Is A Wide Range Of Options With Varying Success Rates
Other than keeping your toenails trimmed and perhaps painted, you may not pay much attention to them unless a problem develops. Healthy toenails are pink, shiny and smooth, but a fungal infection can cause them to become discolored, thick, brittle and even painful.
Toenail fungal infection, known as onychomycosis, is a common but challenging condition toenail fungus treatments include a wide range of options with varying success rates.
Causes of toenail fungus
Fungal nail infections are usually caused by fungi called dermatophytes that infect the skin beneath the nail yeast is another common culprit. Toenails are especially vulnerable to infection when your bare feet contact damp surfaces such as showers, swimming pools and locker rooms. If you have athletes foot, the infection can spread to the nails.
Wearing closed shoes such as athletic shoes for extended periods also can contribute to infection if your shoes and/or socks are damp from perspiration or heat. Moreover, if your shoes fit snugly enough to put pressure on your toes, they can damage the nail bed, making it more susceptible to infection.
People with chronic diseases, such as diabetes or circulatory problems, also may be more prone to toenail infections.
Symptoms of toenail fungus
Toenail fungus symptoms can develop slowly over time and may go unnoticed at first. Symptoms can include:
Toenail fungus treatments
When to see a doctor for toenail fungus
Preventing toenail fungus
What Causes Fungal Nails And What Are Some Of The Risk Factors
In normal, healthy people, fungal infections of the nails are most commonly caused by fungus that is caught from moist, wet areas. Communal showers, such as those at a gym or swimming pools, are common sources. Going to nail salons that use inadequate sanitization of instruments in addition to living with family members who have fungal nails are also risk factors. Athletes have been proven to be more susceptible to nail fungus. This is presumed to be due to the wearing of tight-fitting, sweaty shoes associated with repetitive trauma to the toenails. Having athlete’s foot makes it more likely that the fungus will infect your toenails. Repetitive trauma also weakens the nail, which makes the nail more susceptible to fungal infection.
Elderly people and people with certain underlying disease states are also at higher risk. Anything that impairs your immune system can make you prone to getting infected with the fungus. These include conditions such as AIDS, diabetes, cancer, psoriasis, or taking any immunosuppressive medications like steroids.
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How Do I Know If I Have A Fungal Nail Infection
Because other infections can affect the nail and mimic symptoms of a fungal nail infection, the only way to confirm a diagnosis is to see a doctor. Theyll take a scraping of the nail and look under a microscope for signs of fungus.
In some cases, your doctor may send the sample to a lab for analysis and identification.
Over-the-counter products arent usually recommended to treat nail infections since they dont provide reliable results. Instead, your doctor may prescribe an oral antifungal medication, such as:
What Causes A Nail Fungal Infection
The infection is usually caused by exposure to a fungus. The fungus grows in wet, dark conditions. The fungus grows when your feet are in warm, sweaty environment . It enters your nail through a crack in the nail.
Nail fungal infections happen at any age. They are more common in adults older than 60 years of age. They are common in people who have diabetes or circulation problems. They also are common in people with a weakened immune system. Men are more likely than women to get fungal nail infections.
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How Is It Treated
Whether to treat a fungal nail infection is up to you. If it isn’t treated, it won’t go away. It might get worse.
If you decide to treat a fungal nail infection, you can try a non-prescription antifungal medicine that comes in a cream, lotion, or nail polish. Your doctor can also prescribe a stronger medicine. You may need to use this medicine for a few weeks or for as long as a year. Even so, it may not get rid of the infection.
Antifungal pills give the best chance of curing a severe fungal nail infection. But they may cost a lot and have serious side effects. You will need to see your doctor for regular testing if you take these pills.
Treating Toenail Fungus Medically
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Are Oral Medications For Nail Fungus Toxic
The newer drugs are unlikely to cause any liver problems in patients without known liver disease. Blood tests are not needed for once-weekly treatment with fluconazole however, people taking longer courses often have their liver function tested before starting the medicine and then retested during the course of treatment. It is important to notify the doctor of all side effects while on the medication. You should tell your doctor of all current medications to prevent potential serious drug interactions.
How To Prevent Hand Fungus
- Use the medicine completely and as recommended. The fungus may still be present long after it is no longer visible as a rash.
- Keep feet clean, cool and dry. Change socks. Wear shoes that breathe like leather, rather than plastic.
- Make sure shoes fit correctly and are not too tight.
- Apply an anti-fungal cream, like Lotrimin or Lamisil, or a prescription antifungal cream to the bottom of the feet, and on the nails, about twice a week.
- Avoid walking barefoot, especially in bathrooms, locker rooms, gyms, on carpeting, and in public bathing areas.
- Keep toenails short, cut straight across and avoid ingrown nails.
Sources:Hand Fungus, Hx Benefit website, October 12, 2017 Hand Fungus, Health Blogger website, September 26, 2017 Malone, S., Hand Fungus, Hand Fungus, Healthool website
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What Is The Outcome For Someone Who Has Nail Fungus
With treatment, many people can get rid of nail fungus. Even when the fungus clears, your nail may look unhealthy until the infected nail grows out. A fingernail grows out in 4 to 6 months and a toenail in 12 to 18 months.
To clear the fungus, its important to:
Use the treatment exactly as prescribed
Apply the medicine for as long as prescribed
Keep all follow-up appointments with your dermatologist
Nail fungus can be stubborn. If you had a severe infection, its possible to clear the infection. A healthy looking nail, however, may be unrealistic, but you can expect the nail to look better and feel more comfortable.
Even with clearing, nail fungus can return. Youll find steps to reduce your risk in Tips: 12 ways to prevent another nail infection.
ReferenceGold LFS and Rosen T. Onychomycosis: Diagnosis, treatment, and prevention strategies. Dermatology News . March 2016:2-15.
Types Of Fungal Nail Infections
There are four main kinds of fungal nail infection. Each looks slightly different:
- Distal or lateral subungual onychomycosis. This is the most common kind. It results from a fungus called a dermatophyte. You can get it in your fingernails or toenails. It starts in the nail bed, underneath the nail. Youâll see a yellowish colored area that spreads from the edges of the nail to the center, and places where it comes apart from the nail bed.
- White superficial onychomycosis. This is less common and only affects the nail surface, mainly on your toenails. It starts as white spots, which become powdery and cause the nail to crumble.
- Proximal subungual onychomycosis. This appears first as white spots in the center of the nail bed at the cuticle. They move outward as the finger or toenail grows. Itâs rare and usually affects people who have immune system problems, like HIV infection.
- Candidal onychomycosis. Yeast causes this infection that usually affects your fingernails. The area around the nails is often swollen and inflamed, and the nails may come off entirely. It tends to happen to nails that have been damaged by an injury or another infection.
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Tips For Prevention Of Fungal Nails
Nail fungus causes only 50% of abnormal-appearing nails. It can be hard to tell the difference between the different causes of discolored nails . Onychomycosis is often not treated. Reasons to receive treatment include
No one knows where a specific person catches the fungus, as it is everywhere. However, since the fungus does thrive in warm moist areas , there are certain areas one should avoid or use with caution. Shower floors, locker rooms, and swimming pools are suspected of being sources of the fungus, although there are no studies proving this fact. Nail polish and acrylic nails also make the nail less “breathable” and make the nail more susceptible to fungal infection. Fungi are everywhere — in the air, the dust, and the soil. Hygienic measures such as spraying socks and footgear sound sensible, and perhaps these measures can even help a little bit. However, avoiding tight, nonbreathing shoes or steering clear of athletic facility floors may very well be the best prevention available. Daily washing of the feet and drying between the toes can help to prevent nail fungus. The fungi carried on the coats of pets, like cats and dogs, don’t often cause nail fungus. Wearing white socks does not help.
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Is It Possible To Prevent Toenail Fungus
Preventing toenail fungus from developing or reducing your risk of being affected by fungal nail infection is possible, according to the Mayo Clinic.
To prevent fungal nail infection and related conditions:
- Regularly wash your hands and feet. Always wash your hands after touching or treating an infected nail. Moisturize your fingernails and toenails after washing them.
- When trimming your nails, trim straight across, then smooth the edges with a nail file and file down any thickened areas of the nail.
- Disinfect your nail clippers after each use.
- Change your socks throughout the day or wear sweat-absorbing socks to prevent excessive moisture from building up around your toes.
- Choose shoes made of materials that breathe.
- Discard old shoes. Alternatively, you can treat them with disinfectants or antifungal powders.
- Do not walk barefoot around public pool areas, locker rooms, or gym showers.
- Be sure that any nail salons you go to sterilize their tools between customers.
- Give your nails a rest from nail polish and artificial nails.
How Can You Prevent A Fungal Nail Infection
Fungal nail infections often come back after treatment. It is important to take steps to prevent this.
- Before bed, wash and dry your feet carefully.
- Wear sandals or roomy shoes made of materials that allow moisture to escape. Let shoes dry for 24 hours before you wear them again.
- Wear socks. Change them if your feet get sweaty.
- Do not share nail files or clippers, socks, towels, or other personal items.
- Wear flip-flops or shower sandals in wet public areas, such as locker rooms or showers.
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Is There Anything That Really Works For Toenail Fungus
Terbinafine for toenail fungus treatment
The best pill for toenail fungus is terbinafine. Evidence suggests it works better than the alternatives with the fewest side effects. Terbinafine results in resolution of toenail fungus 76% of the time. Common side effects may include headaches, skin rash, and vomiting.
How Do I Know If My Toenail Fungus Is Healing
Nail fungus can be resistant to treatment and nails take a long time to grow out, so it can take several weeks or months for an infection to be fully resolved. You will know that the treatment is working and the infection is clearing up when you see growth of a new, healthy nail from the base of the nail bed.
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What Causes Nail Fungus
Nail fungus occurs when fungi, yeast, or mold infect the skin. These types of infections are more likely to affect toenails than fingernails, and can be associated with athletes foot. Symptoms typically include white, brown, or yellow discoloration of the nail or thickening, cracking, and/or brittleness of the nail. If left untreated, the area of the infection can become painful.
There are several risk factors for developing nail fungus: tight shoes damaged nails walking barefoot in moist areas like swimming pools, saunas, and public showers poor blood circulation in your legs a weakened immune system and other skin conditions, such as psoriasis. You may even have a genetic predisposition to developing nail fungus.
Here at North Central Texas Foot & Ankle, well assess your specific case, perform tests to get to the bottom of the issue, and determine which treatment to provide you based on the test results.
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Treatment Options For Nail Fungus
Most of my conversation is usually discussing medical therapy, so things that are available by prescription only. And those come in two main forms, which are topical antifungal medications, and then oral antifungal medications. There are other surgical or procedural options, so you can remove nails as well. And then there’s starting to be more interest in technologies like lasers for nail fungus.
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What To Think About
Some people are not sure whether they want to use antifungal pills because of the side effects.
If you have a condition such as diabetes that might complicate a minor foot injury or infection, your doctor may suggest treating a fungal nail infection, even if it doesn’t bother you.
Combining nail removal with antifungal creams or pills is likely to be more effective than using one of these treatments alone.
If you have a mild fungal infection or are concerned about the risks of oral antifungal medicine, consider using a topical treatment, such as Lamisil or Penlac.
Even after treatment, your nails may still look irregular in shape and appearance. It can take a year or longer before they return to normal.
Fungal nail infections often come back.
Is It Possible To Prevent The Recurrence Of Nail Fungus
Tinea pedis, also known as athlete’s foot or foot fungus, can cause recurrence of fungal nails. Therefore, it is important to manage this condition. One can apply over-the-counter antifungal medicines such as clotrimazole or terbinafine cream as directed to affected skin. Keeping footwear and socks clean can be helpful. You can also use portable UV light sanitizers to disinfect shoes.
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What Should I Ask My Healthcare Provider About Toenail Fungus
If you have toenail fungus, you may find it helpful to ask your provider:
- What type of infection do I have?
- Do you recommend I treat it? Why or why not?
- How long will I need treatment?
- What steps can I take to stop it from coming back?
- Should I be aware of any potentially serious complications or treatment side effects?
A note from Cleveland Clinic
Toenail fungus is an incredibly common infection that can be difficult to treat. The condition usually isnt painful, but it may make you feel self-conscious about how your foot looks. If it bothers you, talk to your provider about your treatment options. A trained specialist can provide guidance on whats most likely to address your concerns while protecting your overall health.
Last reviewed by a Cleveland Clinic medical professional on 12/17/2020.