What is toenail fungus? 

As the name suggests, toenail fungus is a common fungal infection of toenails. However, this fungal infection is not always limited to toenails. It can affect the fingernails as well. This condition occurs when fungi get between the toenail and the tissue underneath it through a cut in your toe.

There are different types of fungi that can cause a fungal toenail infection. However, a dermatophyte is behind 90% of the cases. Toenail fungus caused by this variety is called tinea unguium. The toenails are the ideal place for a dermatophyte because it is dependent on keratin to grow and the primary structural material of a nail is keratin. The technical term for this type of infection is onychomycosis.

You can easily recognize a fungal toenail infection because it changes the appearance of the toenail. The infection changes the color and makes the toenail appear whitish, yellowish, or brownish. In some cases, you might notice chalky spots on the toenail. Other signs involve the thickening of the nail and appearing awkward. The toenail can separate from the nail bed as well and leave a gap. Over time, you will notice small cracks in various spots. Although the infection changes the appearance of the toenail, it is not generally painful only occasionally while walking. 

Who can get a fungal toenail infection? 

Almost anyone around you can get a fungal toenail infection. However, this condition is more common among elderly people, especially people who are over 60. A few health conditions can increase the risk of getting a fungal toenail infection: 

  • Any injury to the nail 
  • Hyperhidrosis (a condition where people sweat a lot) 
  • Athlete’s foot (tinea pedis) 
  • Psoriasis 
  • Weak immune system (caused by diseases like HIV) 
  • Peripheral vascular disease (a circulation disorder)
  • Diabetes 

How can you take care of fungal toenail infection?

There are a few ways to get rid of a fungal toenail infection. Here are a few options:

Options without a prescription

There are a number of things you can buy at a store for your fungal toenail infection without a prescription. An antifungal cream is one the things you can try first. Various gels and even nail polish can help to get rid of a fungal toenail infection as well. Many items available in your home can prove to be useful such as menthol rub, mouthwash, etc.

Options with a prescription 

Visiting a podiatry center like the Bayshore Podiatry Center is always a better choice if you want the right treatment. Your podiatrist will trim the nail and get rid of the dead layers first. A small sample can be sent to the lab as well for determining the type of fungus. Most often, doctors recommend an antifungal drug that you will have to apply to the affected area. Antifungal pills may be prescribed as well.  Although they are effective, they work slowly and can take a few months. In case you are taking any other pills, always inform your doctor as the antifungal pills’ effectiveness might be affected. 

Removing the toenail

Antifungal pills or creams might not work if you’ve ignored the infection for too long.. This is when doctors consider other alternatives such as removing the nail. Depending on how far the infection has spread, only a part of the nail or the entire nail will be removed. Within a year, a new nail will grow and your toenail will appear perfectly normal. In some cases, doctors recommend applying a cream on the nail bed so that the risk of another infection can be avoided.

Laser treatment

Laser treatment can help to get rid of a fungal toenail infection as well. The infected toenail is zapped with targeted lasers during this process. There are different types of lasers used for this procedure. This procedure is more costly than the previous options and not usually covered by insurance. 

How to take care of a fungal toenail infection at home? 

You do not always have to buy medication or opt for expensive procedures to get rid of a fungal toenail infection. There are many simple ways to treat it at your home as well like: 

  • Get rid of white markings whenever you spot them on your nails. You can either file or cut.
  • Put your feet in water to soak the infected toenail and apply medicated cream after drying it off. 
  • Reduce pain by keeping the infected nail trimmed. 
  • File the nail bed to make it thin and apply antifungal creams. This will help to get rid of the fungal infection faster.

How to prevent a fungal toenail infection? 

Even if you successfully get rid of the infection, there are chances that it can come back. To ensure that you do not get a fungal toenail infection again, here are a few simple things you should keep in mind: 

  • Your feet should always be clean and dry. 
  • Do not visit public pools, bathrooms, and locker rooms without shower shoes. 
  • Never wear dirty socks and shoes. 
  • Avoid tight shoes and ensure they let your feet breathe. 
  • Cut and trim your nails timely.
  • Always wash your hands and feet after returning home. 
  • Avoid artificial nails and poor-quality nail polish.
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