Your feet experience a great deal of stress over time. From the basic pressure and first contact made during walking and standing to constantly changing socks and shoes, it is easy to see how the feet are more susceptible to wounds and infections. While surprising to learn, an estimated 5 percent of people suffer from onychomycosis. Also known as a nail fungal infection, onychomycosis of the toenail can become incredibly painful and dangerous if not treated. This guide and your podiatrist's assistance will help you understand the causes, signs, and treatment options for toenail fungal infections.
Toenail fungal infections stem from microscopic fungi. These microscopic organisms can build up under the nail, growing and spreading across the top of the nail and even other areas of the foot.
Fungi most commonly grow in moist or damp areas, so if you walk barefoot outside or spend a lot of time in water, you have a higher risk of developing a fungal infection of the toenails. Also, walking around pools, spas, locker rooms, and shower stalls without proper foot protection can increase your risk of fungal growth and nail infections.
Most people who have an infection of the toenail will see visible signs. First and foremost, you may notice parts of the nail's surface beginning to flake away. White or yellow steaks across the nail are also common.
In some instances, the corners of the nail may begin to curl, or the entire nail may lift up off the nail bed. Many people will also lose the nail completely, which can be painful and unappealing.
Lastly, a strong odor coming from the nail may be a sign of an infection that should be addressed. Also, if you have a fever in addition to one or more of the above signs, consult a foot doctor immediately.
Pain is a common problem that occurs with a fungal infection of the toenail. This pain can affect your ability to walk and even wear shoes comfortably. Pain is not the only danger of a fungal toenail infection, though. If left untreated, the infection can spread to other areas of your body, including your other toes.
The loss of an infected nail can also become dangerous. Without the nail covering the nail bed, the underlying skin and tissue will be at risk of more serious infections.
An estimated 22 percent of diabetic patients will develop a fungal infection of their toenail at one point in time. If you have diabetes and suffer with the numbness and tingling associated with neuropathy, you may not even realize the infection is affecting your foot. As it spreads and becomes more serious, the fungal infection of the toenail could result in gangrene and even a possible amputation.
Mild infections can be treated with an application of medicine directly to the nail. The medication contains fungicide, which kills the fungus while preventing it from spreading to other areas of your toenails and feet. In most cases, the medication will clear up the infection in just a few days.
Oral medication may be prescribed if you have a more severe fungal infection of the toenail. Antifungal medications that are taken orally are stronger, but they also work more efficiently when compared to a topical medication.
Podiatrists may also suggest removing the infected nail. Nonsurgical nail removal dissolves the infected nail, removing it without making cuts or incisions. Surgical removal is also an option that may be necessary if the nail is thicker or more difficult to remove.
A toenail fungal infection may not seem like a big problem, but it can affect your health and wellness in big ways. This guide will help you understand the causes, signs, dangers, and treatment options for toenail fungal infections.
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