Toenail Fungus

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Definition

What is toenail fungus?

Toenail fungus, also called onychomycosis, is a fungal infection of your toenail. It’s an infection that gets in through cracks in your nail or cuts in your skin. It can make your toenail change color or get thicker. It can also hurt. Because toes are often warm and damp, fungus grows well there. Different kinds of fungi and sometimes yeast affect different parts of the nail. Left untreated, an infection could spread to other toenails, skin, or even your fingernails.

How common is toenail fungus?

Toenail fungus is very common. Please discuss with your doctor for further information.

Symptoms

What are the symptoms of toenail fungus?

The most noticeable symptom is a white, brown, or yellow discoloration of one or more of your toenails. It may spread and cause the nails to thicken or crack.

Infected nails are usually thicker than normal and could be warped or oddly shaped. They can break easily. Nails with fungus might look yellow. Sometimes a white dot shows up on the nail and then gets bigger. When fungus builds up under your nail, it can loosen and even separate the nail from the bed. The fungus can also spread to the skin around your nail.

There may be some symptoms not listed above. If you have any concerns about a symptom, please consult your doctor.

When should I see my doctor?

If you have any signs or symptoms listed above or have any questions, please consult with your doctor. Everyone’s body acts differently. It is always best to discuss with your doctor what is best for your situation.

Causes

What causes toenail fungus?

Toenail fungus (onychomycosis) is caused by a group of fungi known as dermophytes. This group thrives on skin and on keratin, the main component of hair and nails. The fungus gets under the nail and begins to grow, damaging the nail.

Risk factors

What increases my risk for toenail fungus?

Men are more likely to get it than women. The older you are, the better your chances are, too. People who have diabetes, athlete’s foot, or a weak immune system, who smoke, or whose family members have it are also at a higher risk. If you spend a lot of time in the water or you’ve injured your toenail, your odds for getting toenail fungus go up.

Diagnosis & treatment

The information provided is not a substitute for any medical advice. ALWAYS consult with your doctor for more information.

How is toenail fungus diagnosed?

Since toenail fungus can look like other conditions, including psoriasis, you’ll want to have your toenail checked by a doctor. You may need to see a specialist who cares for feet (a podiatrist) or skin (a dermatologist).

The first step is to take a history of the problem. A podiatrist needs to understand the extent of the problem, and also any other medical factors which may influence their choice of treatment. A full medical history is also important because the first line of defense is usually oral medication, but this treatment can have side effects for people with underlying health issues. Then comes a physical exam.

The doctor might scrape off some of the affected part and send it to a lab to figure out what’s causing the problem.

How is toenail fungus treated?

The way you treat toenail fungus depends on which fungus you have and how bad the infection is. Your doctor may try one thing or a combination:

  • A topical cream that goes directly on the nail
  • A topical nail lacquer
  • An antifungal prescription pill
  • Removing the damaged area of the nail or skin

In some cases, you might need to have the nail removed completely with surgery.

Lifestyle changes & home remedies

What are some lifestyle changes or home remedies that can help me manage toenail fungus?

The following lifestyles and home remedies might help you cope with toenail fungus:

  • Use soap and water to wash your feet, and dry well, including between toes. Trim your toenails — straight across — to keep them shorter than the end of your toe. Make sure the tools you use are clean, too. Wash clippers and files with soap and water, then wipe with rubbing alcohol. You might be tempted to cover up discolored nails with polish, but don’t. Your nail bed can’t “breathe,” which keeps fungus from going away.
  • Be smart about your footwear. Choose socks that wick moisture away. Change them regularly. Make sure your shoes fit well. They should be made of something that lets air move through it, like canvas, mesh, or leather. Wear shower shoes in wet public places like locker rooms and swimming pools.
  • Take a good look at your nail beds and the skin around your toenails regularly, at least once a month. (You might need to use a mirror if it’s hard to see your toes.) Watch for changes in color and texture, as well as for cuts or damage. Does anything hurt? If your symptoms don’t improve or get worse, give your doctor a call.
  • Give your body the nutrients it needs by eating:
    • Probiotic-rich yogurt
    • Enough protein to support nail regrowth
    • Enough iron to prevent brittle nails
    • A diet rich in essential fatty acids
    • Foods rich in calcium and vitamin D, such as low-fat dairy products

If you have any questions, please consult with your doctor to better understand the best solution for you.

Hello Health Group does not provide medical advice, diagnosis or treatment.

Sources

Review Date: August 24, 2018 | Last Modified: August 24, 2018

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