Nail fungus, or onychomycosis, is a common skin condition where a fungus infects a part of the nail including the bed, matrix, or plate. Nail fungus can result in cosmetic concerns, pain, and discomfort as well as end up affecting your everyday activities. If it is a severe infection, it may cause permanent damage to your nails or may spread beyond your nails. If you know you have toenail fungus, you can follow a few simple steps to get rid of it and return your toenail to its former health.
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.
The most reliable way to diagnose athlete’s foot is to correctly identify its cause. Fungal athlete's foot is relatively straightforward to diagnose and treat. Visualization of the fungus in skin scrapings removed from the affected areas of the feet is a painless and cost-effective method for diagnosis. Rarely, it is necessary to identify fungi in portions of skin removed during a biopsy. If no fungus is found, other causes of athlete's foot must be investigated.
Fungal nail infections can be difficult to treat. Talk with your doctor if self-care strategies and over-the-counter (nonprescription) products haven't helped. Treatment depends on the severity of your condition and the type of fungus causing it. It can take months to see results. And even if your nail condition improves, repeat infections are common.
Onychomycosis does not necessarily require treatment. The antifungal medication, terbinafine, taken by mouth appears to be the most effective but is associated with liver problems. Trimming the affected nails when on treatment also appears useful. There is a ciclopirox containing nail polish, but it does not work as well. The condition returns in up to half of cases following treatment. Not using old shoes after treatment may decrease the risk of recurrence.
If you have diabetes, you may have reduced blood circulation and nerve supply in your feet. You're also at greater risk of a bacterial skin infection (cellulitis). So any relatively minor injury to your feet — including a nail fungal infection — can lead to a more serious complication. See your doctor if you have diabetes and think you're developing nail fungus.