What is Toenail Fungus?
Toenail fungus is caused by fungal infections that affect one or several toenails on your feet. It may also be known as onychomycosis. Toenail fungus commonly infects the toenails and results in the discoloration and thickening of toenails that are also more prone to cracks and breakages.
The fungus grows in or on the toenail and, if left untreated, can lead to impairment in your ability to walk. Patients with diabetes, bad blood circulation, or nerve damage should always seek treatment from a podiatrist to manage the worsening of symptoms.
What Are the Causes of Toenail Fungus?
Toenail fungus can be caused for several different reasons, including:
- injury or trauma to the toenail bed
- tight-fitting footwear
- multiple layers of nail polish that do not allow the nail bed to breathe
- chronic illness like diabetes
- poor blood circulation
- frequent moist skin on the feet
Patients that frequent swimming pools and locker rooms with wet environments while being barefoot are more prone to developing fungal toenail infections, along with other bacterial infections and even tenia pedis.
What Are the Symptoms of Toenail Fungus?
Patients with toenail fungus experience the following symptoms:
- cracked nails
- discoloration of nails —yellow or black
- white debris under the nail loosening of the nail
- dry nails
- foul odor
What to Expect During Treatment for Toenail Fungus at the Podiatrist
Prevention and management of toenail fungus is the best form of treatment. In-home prevention tips recommended by podiatrists include:
- wearing moisture-wicking socks
- daily use of antifungal foot powder
- wearing sandals or flip-flops when in communal spaces such as locker rooms, showers, or pools
- shoes with a wide enough toe box
- maintaining proper foot hygiene
Seek the help of a podiatric physician if you observe changes to your toenail. A proper foot exam can help diagnose your toenail fungus, and a complete health history can help determine if you may be predisposed to chronic toenail fungal infections. A lab test, where your podiatrist takes a scraping of your toenail, can determine whether you have a fungal infection.
Treatment will depend on your symptoms, especially how severe they are, and can include:
- removal of the infected nail by trimming or filing
- topical or oral antifungals
- medicated nail polish
If your fungal infection is severe and impacting your quality of life, surgery to remove the toenail may be necessary.