Toenail fungus, also called onychomycosis, is a common fungal infection of your toenail. The most noticeable symptom is a white, brown, or yellow discoloration of one or more of your toenails. It may spread and cause the nails to thicken or crack. Sandal season or not, toenail fungus typically isn’t what you want to see when you look at your feet. Luckily there are many treatments you can try.
Select shoes that fit right – Choosing the correct footwear is a must if you want to avoid toenail fungus. Shoes should not touch your toenails at all. Don’t jam your feet into shoes that are too big either – this will cause you to jam your toenail into the front of the shoe causing damage. According to the American Academy of Physicians, the best shoes have a wide toe box.
A number of different types of fungus can cause onychomycosis including dermatophytes and Fusarium. Risk factors include athlete's foot, other nail diseases, exposure to someone with the condition, peripheral vascular disease, and poor immune function. The diagnosis is generally suspected based on the appearance and confirmed by laboratory testing.
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Treating the feet is not always enough. Once socks or shoes are infested with fungi, wearing them again can reinfect (or further infect) the feet. Socks can be effectively cleaned in the wash by adding bleach or by washing in water 60° C (140° F). Washing with bleach may help with shoes, but the only way to be absolutely certain that one cannot contract the disease again from a particular pair of shoes is to dispose of those shoes.
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Toenail fungus often begins as an infection in the skin called tinea pedis (also known as athlete’s foot). The fungus often starts under the nail fold at the end of the nail. Over time, it grows underneath the nail and causes changes to its appearance, such as a yellow or brownish discoloration. It can also cause thickening and deformity of the toenail.
Athlete’s foot is one of the most common foot infections. It can be easily acquired, especially by people who often use communal showers and pools, such as those in college dorms or gyms. It grows in warm, damp places like public showers, locker rooms, and pools. It is also common with shoes that are too tight or socks or shoes that are damp. Athletes foot is contracted from getting pedicures with not properly sanitized equipment.
For this treatment, the affected toe or finger first has to be soaked in warm water for ten minutes and then dried. After that, the urea-based cream is applied to the nail, and the nail is covered with an adhesive bandage. After 24 hours, the bandage is removed and the toe or finger is held in warm water again. The softened layer of the nail is then scraped off using a spatula, the cream is applied again and the nail is covered with a new bandage. This treatment is carried out over 14 days. Once the infected part of the nail has been scraped away completely, the skin beneath is treated for another four weeks with a bifonazole cream.
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.
Infected nails are usually thicker than normal and could be warped or oddly shaped. They can break easily. Nails with fungus might look yellow. Sometimes a white dot shows up on the nail and then gets bigger. When fungus builds up under your nail, it can loosen and even separate the nail from the bed. The fungus can also spread to the skin around your nail.