You may first notice a fungal toenail infection as a small white or yellow spot on the tip of your toenail, especially the big toe. As the infection progresses, the toenail can become yellow, brittle—even crumbly—and thick and uneven-looking. In the worst fungal infections, the toenail separates from the nail bed. This is called onycholysis. As fungal infections worsen, the nail beds can be tender to the touch and quite painful. Sometimes women try to pretend the pain is “normal” and ignore it altogether.
Keeping socks and shoes clean (using bleach in the wash) is one way to prevent fungi from taking hold and spreading. Avoiding the sharing of boots and shoes is another way to prevent transmission. Athlete's foot can be transmitted by sharing footwear with an infected person. Hand-me-downs and purchasing used shoes are other forms of shoe-sharing. Not sharing also applies to towels, because, though less common, fungi can be passed along on towels, especially damp ones.
Athlete’s foot—the most prevalent foot fungus—thrives in warm, sweaty places like the insides of your athletic shoes, which is how it got its name. However, foot fungus can develop in multiple environments, natural and man-made, as long as there is lots of moisture where fungi can grow. These include shared areas at gyms or pools, soil and grass, or even shared items such as shoes, socks, or towels from household members who are infected.
The ease with which the fungus spreads to other areas of the body (on one's fingers) poses another complication. When the fungus is spread to other parts of the body, it can easily be spread back to the feet after the feet have been treated. And because the condition is called something else in each place it takes hold (e.g., tinea corporis (ringworm) or tinea cruris (jock itch), persons infected may not be aware it is the same disease.
Fungus can infect the skin and nails of your feet. A fungal infection of the skin is also known as Athlete’s Foot, which causes itching, burning, and flaking. This infection can spread to the toenails if it’s not treated. Both types of foot fungus are extremely contagious, both in your own body as well as to other people through contact. Therefore, it’s essential to treat the infection and prevent its recurrence.
Fungal infection occurs when the organism invades through an opening in the nail, meaning fungi will usually attack nails that are already damaged. After infection occurs, the growth of the fungi leads to mild inflammation, which causes the nail to thicken and the nail plate to detach from the nail bed. The space underneath the nail can then serve as a reservoir for bacteria and moulds, which can cause the nail to become discoloured.
Globally, fungal infections affect about 15% of the population and affects one out of five adults. Athlete's foot is common in individuals who wear unventilated (occlusive) footwear, such as rubber boots or vinyl shoes. Countries and regions where going barefoot is more common experience much lower rates of athlete's foot than do populations which habitually wear shoes; as a result, the disease has been called "a penalty of civilization". Studies have demonstrated that men are infected 2–4 times more often than women.
The most common symptom of a fungal nail infection is the nail becoming thickened and discoloured: white, black, yellow or green. As the infection progresses the nail can become brittle, with pieces breaking off or coming away from the toe or finger completely. If left untreated, the skin underneath and around the nail can become inflamed and painful. There may also be white or yellow patches on the nailbed or scaly skin next to the nail, and a foul smell. There is usually no pain or other bodily symptoms, unless the disease is severe. People with onychomycosis may experience significant psychosocial problems due to the appearance of the nail, particularly when fingers – which are always visible – rather than toenails are affected.
Over-the-counter antifungal treatments. Antifungal creams and ointments treat toenail infections while helping to keep new fungus out so new nails can grow. Some treatments must be applied every day, others are applied once a week. It’s a good idea to apply topical treatments to both the foot and nail simultaneously to prevent foot fungus from spreading to the toes. If you trim your toenails well (see above) before applying an antifungal, the medicine can reach deeper into the nailbed.
When athlete's foot fungus or infested skin particles spread to one's environment (such as to clothes, shoes, bathroom, etc.) whether through scratching, falling, or rubbing off, not only can they infect other people, they can also reinfect (or further infect) the host they came from. For example, infected feet infest one's socks and shoes which further expose the feet to the fungus and its spores when worn again.
Prevent future occurrences. There are many situations that make you more at risk for infection. You are at a higher risk if you are older, have diabetes, have an impaired immune system, or have poor circulation. If you are at high risk, you should take extra care to prevent infection. Preventative measures include wearing shoes or sandals when you are at damp public areas such as swimming pools or gyms, keeping your toenails clipped and clean, making sure your feet are dry, and drying your feet after you shower.
A band of tissue called the plantar fascia runs along the bottom of the foot. It pulls on the heel when you walk -- and it works best with the proper arch in your foot. Walking barefoot, or in flimsy shoes without sufficient arch support, can overstretch, tear, or inflame the plantar fascia. This common condition can cause intense heel pain, and resting the feet only provides temporary relief.
Onychomycosis patients may need to learn new, healthier habits to stop the fungus growing back. These could include protecting toes from sources of infection, wearing correctly fitting footwear, laundering socks in hot water with disinfectant, wearing protective footwear at the pool and gym, keeping nails short, using open-toed footwear and wearing shoes made of breathable material.
If you notice any redness, increased swelling, bleeding,or if your infection is not clearing up, see your health care professional. If a bacterial infection is also occurring, an antibiotic pill may be necessary. If you have fungal nail involvement, are diabetic, or have a compromised immune system, you should also see your physician for treatment.
Many individuals with athlete's foot have no symptoms at all and do not even know they have an infection. Many may think they simply have dry skin on the soles of their feet. Common symptoms of athlete's foot typically include various degrees of itching, stinging, and burning. The skin may frequently peel, and in particularly severe cases, there may be some cracking, fissuring, pain, and itching in the toe webs. Occasionally, athlete's foot can blister.
Some methods of prevention include avoiding walking barefoot in public showers, keeping the toenails short, wearing big enough shoes, and changing socks daily. When infected, the feet should be kept dry and clean and wearing sandals may help. Treatment can be either with antifungal medication applied to the skin such as clotrimazole or for persistent infections antifungal medication that are taken by mouth such as terbinafine. The use of the cream is typically recommended for four weeks.
Toenail injury: There are two types of injuries that can occur to your toenail. The first is acute trauma where the nail is impacted over and over again as in the case of a runner wearing shoes that don’t fit well. The other thing that can happen is blunt trauma where something falls on your toe such as a heavy object and causes an injury. This injury makes your toenail more susceptible to fungus. It is important in both cases to look after your toenails properly to avoid an infection.
Dr. Kyoung Min Han is a podiatrist (foot and ankle specialist) practicing in Southern California. Dr. Han completed her undergraduate education at the University of California, San Diego, and went on to the New York College of Podiatric Medicine to pursue her medical training. She returned to her native Southern California to complete a three-year foot and ankle surgical residency, followed by subspecialty training in a sports medicine fellowship.
Athlete's foot is a form of dermatophytosis (fungal infection of the skin), caused by dermatophytes, fungi (most of which are mold) which inhabit dead layers of skin and digests keratin. Dermatophytes are anthropophilic, meaning these parasitic fungi prefer human hosts. Athlete's foot is most commonly caused by the molds known as Trichophyton rubrum and T. mentagrophytes, but may also be caused by Epidermophyton floccosum. Most cases of athlete's foot in the general population are caused by T. rubrum; however, the majority of athlete's foot cases in athletes are caused by T. mentagrophytes.
Oils such as olive oil and sunflower oil contain ozone gas. A 2011 study published in the Brazilian Journal of Microbiology, showed that small doses of this kind of ozone, applied over a short period, can eliminate fungus. A different study, conducted at the National Center for Scientific Research, Cuba, found that sunflower oil was more effective than the prescription drug Xolegel (ketoconazole).
As both an antiseptic and fungicidal remedy, tea tree oil is a great remedy for onychomycosis. First clean areas on and around the infection with rubbing alcohol then apply undiluted 100% pure tea tree oil (such as this Plant Therapy Tea Tree Oil) directly to the affected nails and let it soak in. After about ten minutes, gently scrub the nail with a soft bristle toothbrush. When applying tea tree oil directly to skin, consider mixing the oil one-to-one with an all-natural carrier, like olive or almond oil. Repeat daily until the new healthy nail grows out completely, then continue treatment for two to three more weeks to prevent regrowth.
Español: eliminar los hongos en los pies, Deutsch: Fußpilz loswerden, Português: Acabar com Micoses nos Pés, Italiano: Liberarsi dei Funghi ai Piedi, Français: se débarrasser d’une mycose des pieds, Nederlands: Voetschimmel verhelpen, 中文: 摆脱足廯的困扰, Русский: вылечить грибок стопы, Čeština: Jak se zbavit plísně nohou, Bahasa Indonesia: Menghilangkan Jamur Kaki, العربية: التخلّص من فطريات القدمين, Tiếng Việt: Chữa Nấm Bàn chân, 한국어: 무좀 제거하는 법
A 2003 survey of diseases of the foot in 16 European countries found onychomycosis to be the most frequent fungal foot infection and estimates its prevalence at 27%. Prevalence was observed to increase with age. In Canada, the prevalence was estimated to be 6.48%. Onychomycosis affects approximately one-third of diabetics and is 56% more frequent in people suffering from psoriasis.
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Making a few simple lifestyle changes can help prevent a fungal infection of the nails. Taking good care of your nails by keeping them well trimmed and clean is a good way to prevent infections. You should also avoid injuring the skin around your nails. If you’re going to have damp or wet hands for an extended amount of time, you may want to wear rubber gloves.