Unfortunately, athlete’s foot is highly contagious and the fungus can easily spread to the toes and toenails, causing infections. There are more than three million cases of toenail fungus in the US every year. Not all toenail infections are from athlete’s foot or even from a fungus; some are caused by yeast or mold. These are much harder to cure than fungal infections.
Following effective treatment, recurrence is common (10–50%). Nail fungus can be painful and cause permanent damage to nails. It may lead to other serious infections if the immune system is suppressed due to medication, diabetes or other conditions. The risk is most serious for people with diabetes and with immune systems weakened by leukemia or AIDS, or medication after organ transplant. Diabetics have vascular and nerve impairment, and are at risk of cellulitis, a potentially serious bacterial infection; any relatively minor injury to feet, including a nail fungal infection, can lead to more serious complications. Infection of the bone is another rare complication.
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.
There are several doctors who can provide nail fungus treatment. Your primary care provider, a dermatologist, or a podiatrist can treat nail fungus. Any one of these doctors can provide proper diagnosis and prescribe medications specific to fungal infection. A podiatrist or dermatologist may shave the top layer of the nail off or even remove part of the nail.
Topical antifungal agents can be used but are often ineffective. Oral terbinafine is considered to be the first-line treatment for confirmed onychomycosis; the treatment course is generally 6 weeks for fingernails and 12 weeks for toenails.9 Azoles can also be used. Surgical debridement or removal of the affected nail is also a consideration for cases that are resistant to antifungals, and laser treatments for onychomycosis appear to be a promising area for future study.10
No one knows where a specific person catches the fungus, as it is everywhere. However, since the fungus does thrive in warm moist areas (like sweaty feet), there are certain areas one should avoid or use with caution. Shower floors, locker rooms, and swimming pools are suspected of being sources of the fungus, although there are no studies proving this fact. Nail polish and acrylic nails also make the nail less "breathable" and make the nail more susceptible to fungal infection. Fungi are everywhere -- in the air, the dust, and the soil. Hygienic measures such as spraying socks and footgear sound sensible, and perhaps these measures can even help a little bit. However, avoiding tight, nonbreathing shoes or steering clear of athletic facility floors may very well be the best prevention available. Daily washing of the feet and drying between the toes can help to prevent nail fungus. The fungi carried on the coats of pets, like cats and dogs, don't often cause nail fungus. Wearing white socks does not help.
Dermatophytes — fungus that grows on the skin, hair and nails but don’t penetrate tissues of the body. Athlete’s foot or Trichophyton rubrum is the most common dermatophyte and can actually infect the toenails. Infection can also begin by touching objects that have dermatophytes on them, such as nail clippers, nail files, socks, shoes, shower floors, etc. Dermatophytes are the cause of most fungal toenail infections.
*All medications have both common (generic) and brand names. The brand name is what a specific manufacturer calls the product (e.g., Tylenol®). The common name is the medical name for the medication (e.g., acetaminophen). A medication may have many brand names, but only one common name. This article lists medications by their common names. For information on a given medication, check our Drug Information database. For more information on brand names, speak with your doctor or pharmacist.
One of the more interesting remedies for toenail fungus is organic cornmeal. Corn naturally hosts a form of fungus that is harmless to the human body but deadly to Candida – the most common fungal parasite that causes infections in people. In a container big enough to fit your foot (or both feet if needed), mix one cup of cornmeal and about two quarts of water. Allow the cornmeal to soak in the water for at least one hour then submerge the infected foot (or feet) in the mixture for a half hour or more. While the frequency of use for this remedy is up for debate, sources have reported success with treatment performed as seldom as once per week. Others say to perform it daily. Because cornmeal is totally harmless to skin and nails, realistically the treatment can be repeated as often as you like.
Fungal athlete's foot may cause a rash on one or both feet and even involve the hand. A "two feet and one hand" pattern is a very common presentation of athlete's foot, especially in men. Hand fungal infections are called tinea manuum. Fungal athlete's foot may also be seen along with ringworm of the groin (especially in men) or hand(s). It is helpful to examine the feet whenever there is a fungal groin rash called tinea cruris, or jock itch. It is important to treat all areas of fungal infection at one time to avoid reinfection. Simply treating the soles and ignoring the concurrent fungal infection of toenails may result in recurrences of athlete's foot.
Ringworm, also called tinea corporis, is not a worm, but a fungal infection of the skin. It can appear anywhere on the body and it looks like a circular, red, flat sore. It is often accompanied by scaly skin. The outer part of the sore can be raised while the skin in the middle appears normal. Ringworm can be unsightly, but it is usually not a serious condition.
Toe infections sound scary, but they’re infections of the nails, most commonly caused by ingrown toenails. The toenail grows into the side of the toe, into the soft tissue there, and the skin begins to grow over it. It can get infected very quickly and is most commonly seen in big toes. This condition is painful, and an infection can be a serious problem.
Green nails can be caused by Pseudomonas bacteria, which grow under a nail that has partially separated from the nail bed. This infection may cause a foul odor of the nails. The treatment is to trim the nail short every four weeks, don't clean it, polish if you want to hide the color, and wait two to three months. It is also advised to avoid soaking the nail in any sort of water (even if inside gloves) and to thoroughly dry the nail after bathing. If the problem continues, there are prescription treatments that your doctor may try.
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Fungi that are already present in or on your body can cause nail infections. If you have come in contact with someone else who has a fungal infection, it may have spread to you. According to the American Academy of Dermatology (AAD), fungal infections affect toenails more commonly than fingernails because your toes are usually confined to your shoes, where they’re in a warm, moist environment.
If you observe any abnormal nail changes it is important to visit your doctor for prompt assessment. In addition to being cosmetically unappealing, OM can also lead to more serious complications, including the possible loss of your nail, bacterial infections, or cellulitis. Speak with your healthcare provider to determine what the best treatment plan is for you.
To get rid of foot fungus like Athlete's Foot, start by applying an over-the-counter antifungal ointment, spray, powder, or cream to the affected area. You can also try taking an over-the-counter medication like butenafine or clotrimazole, but see your doctor for a prescription medication if your case is severe. If you're interested in a homeopathic solution, apply 100% tea tree oil to the affected area 2-3 times per day. To prevent the fungus from returning, wash your feet with antibacterial soap and dry them thoroughly, especially between your toes!
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