Nail fungal infections are not comfortable to talk about, but they’re even more uncomfortable to have. And if left untreated, they can even be dangerous if you have underlying health conditions.
Often, we’re taught to sleep off the little things, like a cold or a muscle ache. You might think the same of nail fungal infections, which can start small with just a little yellow or white spot at the tip of the nail. However, nail fungal infections, known as onychomycosis in medical terms, is a chronic condition that remains on toenails or fingernails for a very long time. Things will only get worse if you don’t treat it fast.
Onychomycosis and Underlying Health Conditions
Onychomycosis is startingly common. The prevalence of conditions of onychomycosis is 20 percent in both Europe and East Asia, with that percentage only rising when advancing in age (Source). It’s even more common in men than women, though there has yet to be scientific evidence that explains why (Source). Its widespread nature can also be attributed to genetics: one study found that children of people prone to onychomycosis are more likely to catch it (Source). That’s only one of many invisible factors that can lead to toenail fungal infections, with other risk factors including diabetes, arterial disease, and neuropathy (Source) or immunodeficient conditions like undergoing chemotherapy (Source). Diabetics or immunosuppressed individuals are even more susceptible to recurrence, potentially leading to years of continuous treatment.
Something as simple as a stubbed toe or a badly clipped toenail can lead to a toenail fungal infection. One study found that contracting a fungal infection of the foot can potentially lead to lower limb cellulitis, a more advanced condition that can cause infections in the blood, joints, bones, and heart chamber (Source). This is even more likely in diabetic or immunocompromised individuals. Onychomycosis is only one form of nail infection; untreated cases can develop into other types of infections harder to treat, such as psoriasis (Source).
The conditions for onychomycosis are ripe for those in sports environments: sweat in socks, damp shoes, overall humidity, shared spaces with other athletes, and nail trauma (Source). If you’re an athlete, you would want to be especially careful to avoid nail fungal infections. Once a nail infection has developed, it can drastically affect performance, especially if the infection becomes painful.
How To Prevent Toenail Fungus
Despite its prevalence, it is possible to avoid toenail fungus infections. Here’s how to avoid toenail fungus infections:
- To start, you should ensure that the things that go near your feet are clean. Change your socks regularly, sanitize your nail scissors or clippers, and clean your feet.
- Keeping your shoes hygienic is absolutely essential to preventing nail fungus. The solutions may not be as immediately obvious as laundering your socks. One common suggestion is to alternate your footwear. Rotating between shoes allows the shoe to air out if stored in an open, dry setting.
- Proper foot hygiene can also help you avoid toenail fungus. Make sure you scrub between your toes and wash your feet daily. Disinfect your shower and bath areas regularly to prevent any lingering spores from spreading. And don’t go barefoot in public places, especially shared areas like common showers!
A good beginner step to avoid toenail fungus is to make sure you wear the correct socks and shoes. Absorbent socks can help prevent toenail fungus with moisture-wicking fabrics that keep the feet clean and dry even in humid conditions (Source).
Wearing properly sized shoes will not only lead to greater comfort, but also prevent fungus on nails. Shoes that are too small can lead to the repeated impact of the toenail against the shoe and keep in unwanted humidity. The material of the shoe matters too. Wearing shoes with a breathable material greatly reduces your chance of a fungal infection compared to closed footwear like boots in humid and hot internal environments (Source).
For the extra mile in onychomycosis prevention, sprinkle an antifungal powder into your shoes to kill any potential spores dwelling inside.
But What Happens If You Already Have a Toenail Fungal Infection?
Treatment is not impossible, especially with the expert help of a podiatrist. But here’s how to prevent fungus on nails or how to prevent toenail fungus from coming back. With a consultation, a podiatrist can help by providing you with the essential anti-fungal treatment, such as topical solution that can get rid of your fungus. Podiatrists can also provide you with advice on what conditions could have led to the infection, such as your shoe type or living conditions.
Vitally, your podiatrist can assist you in ensuring your toenail fungus does not come back. Toenail fungal infections are notoriously resilient and are highly likely to recur without the proper care or treatment (Source). Our podiatrist specialists at The Foot Practice can help prevent that, by providing you proper treatment and recommending the best way forward to break that stubborn foot infection cycle.
Catching a toenail fungal infection can certainly be irritating. And if you have underlying conditions, that nuisance can escalate into something worse. By keeping your feet clean and dry, you can make it harder for the fungus to catch you. Most of all, with the proper help from a podiatrist, you can put an end to your toenail fungus infections.