Diabetes related foot problems can affect your health with two problems: diabetic neuropathy, where diabetes affects the nerves, and peripheral vascular disease, where diabetes affects the flow of blood. Common foot problems for people with diabetes include athlete's foot, fungal infection of nails, calluses, corns, blisters, bunions, dry skin, foot ulcers, hammertoes, ingrown toenails, and plantar warts.
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.
Onychomycosis, also known as tinea unguium, is a fungal infection of the nail.[2] Symptoms may include white or yellow nail discoloration, thickening of the nail, and separation of the nail from the nail bed.[2][3] Toenails or fingernails may be affected, but it is more common for toenails to be affected.[3] Complications may include cellulitis of the lower leg.[3]
Topical agents such as amorolfine (Loceryl 5% nail lacquer; applied once or twice a week) and ciclopirox (Penlac 8% nail lacquer; applied daily) are usually prescribed for mild forms of the disease, but the treatment periods are long and their efficacy is somewhat limited due to poor nail plate penetration. These medications kill fungi by interfering with their cell membranes, which leads to their death.
Ultra-high heels force the feet into a position that puts stress on the ball of the foot. At this critical joint, the long metatarsal bones meet the pea-shaped sesamoid bones, and the toe bones (phalanges). Too much pressure can inflame these bones or the nerves that surround them. Chronic stress to the foot bones can even lead to hairline fractures.
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.
Dr. Shiel received a Bachelor of Science degree with honors from the University of Notre Dame. There he was involved in research in radiation biology and received the Huisking Scholarship. After graduating from St. Louis University School of Medicine, he completed his Internal Medicine residency and Rheumatology fellowship at the University of California, Irvine. He is board-certified in Internal Medicine and Rheumatology.

Yeast onychomycosis: This type is caused by a yeast called Candida and not by the Trichophyton fungus named above. It is more common in fingernails and is a common cause of fungal fingernails. Patients may have associated paronychia (infection of the cuticle). Candida can cause yellow, brown, white, or thickened nails. Some people who have this infection also have yeast in their mouth or have a chronic paronychia (see above) that is also infected with yeast.

Prescription oral antifungals such as terbinafine (Lamisil) or fluconazole (Diflucan) are traditionally used to treat toenail fungus. These treatments are often effective, but they may cause serious side effects ranging from upset stomach and dizziness to severe skin problems and jaundice. This may be why many people try home remedies instead. Here are 10 of these popular at-home treatments.

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.
Flip-flops offer very little protection. The risk of getting splinters or other foot injuries is higher when the feet are so exposed. People with diabetes should not wear flip-flops, because simple cuts and scrapes can lead to serious complications. In addition, many flip-flops provide no arch support. Like ballet flats, they can aggravate plantar fasciitis and cause problems with the knees, hips, or back.
Starts at the ends of the nails and raises the nail up: This is called "distal subungual onychomycosis." It is the most common type of fungal infection of the nails in both adults and children. It is more common in the toes than the fingers, and the great toe is usually the first one to be affected. Risk factors include older age, swimming, athlete's foot, psoriasis, diabetes, family members with the infection, or a suppressed immune system. It usually starts as a discolored area at a corner of the big toe and slowly spreads toward the cuticle. Eventually, the toenails will become thickened and flaky. Sometimes, you can also see signs of athlete's foot in between the toes or skin peeling on the sole of the foot. It is often accompanied by onycholysis. The most common cause is T. rubrum.
One way to definitively get rid of toenail fungus is by surgery. Surgical treatment of onychomycosis involves nail removal. However, this often only provides temporary relief, and recurrence is common unless additional antifungal medication (oral or topical) is simultaneously used. However, surgical removal may be warranted when the affected nail is associated with other factors such as trauma and or infection.

Globally, fungal infections affect about 15% of the population and affects one out of five adults.[2][21] Athlete's foot is common in individuals who wear unventilated (occlusive) footwear, such as rubber boots or vinyl shoes.[21][23] 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".[35] Studies have demonstrated that men are infected 2–4 times more often than women.[2]

Ultra-high heels force the feet into a position that puts stress on the ball of the foot. At this critical joint, the long metatarsal bones meet the pea-shaped sesamoid bones, and the toe bones (phalanges). Too much pressure can inflame these bones or the nerves that surround them. Chronic stress to the foot bones can even lead to hairline fractures.


Oral medications include terbinafine (76% effective), itraconazole (60% effective) and fluconazole (48% effective).[2] They share characteristics that enhance their effectiveness: prompt penetration of the nail and nail bed,[23] and persistence in the nail for months after discontinuation of therapy.[24] Ketoconazole by mouth is not recommended due to side effects.[25] Oral terbinafine is better tolerated than itraconazole.[26] For superficial white onychomycosis, systemic rather than topical antifungal therapy is advised.[27]
When the skin is injured damaged, the natural protective skin barrier is broken. Bacteria and yeasts can then invade the broken skin. Bacteria can cause a bad smell. Bacterial infection of the skin and resulting inflammation is known as cellulitis. This is especially likely to occur in individuals with diabetes, chronic leg swelling, who have had veins removed (such as for heart bypass surgery), or in the elderly. Bacterial skin infections also occur more frequently in patients with impaired immune systems.
Oral/combination therapy. Some studies have shown that taking antifungal pills and applying antifungals to your nails can be more effective than using either treatment alone. Oral medications can typically treat toenail fungus in three months. In stubborn cases, topical and oral medications may be combined to provide the best possible treatment. Oral medications must be prescribed by your physician or health care practitioner.
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.

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.
There are several preventive foot hygiene measures that can prevent athlete's foot and reduce recurrence. Some of these include keeping the feet dry, clipping toenails short; using a separate nail clipper for infected toenails; using socks made from well-ventilated cotton or synthetic moisture wicking materials (to soak moisture away from the skin to help keep it dry); avoiding tight-fitting footwear, changing socks frequently; and wearing sandals while walking through communal areas such as gym showers and locker rooms.[8][13][28]
Nail-bed fungus is also called onychomycosis. It can affect anyone regardless of age, gender and hygiene and is spread by direct contact with skin or with infected surfaces. Common places you may be exposed to fungus are at nail salons, as well as showers at hotels, pools, nail salons, and gyms where you go barefoot. Housemates and family members with a fungal infection may also spread their condition.
In some cases of suspected nail fungus there is actually no fungal infection, but only nail deformity. A 2003 source gives a figure of 50%[17] whereas a more recent source claims that fungus is present in 65 to 95 percent of cases.[18] Avoiding use of oral antifungal therapy (e.g. terbinafine) in persons without a confirmed infection is a particular concern because of the possible side effects of that treatment.[17] However, according to a 2015 study, the cost in the United States of testing with the periodic acid–Schiff stain (PAS) was about $148. Even if the cheaper KOH test is used first and the PAS test is used only if the KOH test is negative, there is a good chance that the PAS will be done (because of either a true or a false negative with the KOH test). But the terbinafine treatment only cost $10 (plus an additional $43 for liver function tests). In conclusion the authors say that terbinafine has a relatively benign adverse effect profile, with liver damage very rare, so it makes more sense cost-wise for the dermatologist to prescribe the treatment without doing the PAS test. (Another option would be to prescribe the treatment only if the potassium hydroxide test is positive, but it gives a false negative in about 20% of cases of fungal infection.) On the other hand, as of 2015 the price of topical (non-oral) treatment with efinaconazole was $2307 per nail, so testing is recommended before prescribing it.[18]
Trim infected nails. Using large toenail clippers and/or nail nippers, keep your toenails well-trimmed by cutting them straight across to the toe line. Thin thickened nails by gently scraping away the crumbly debris under the nail with a file. This will get rid of some fungus and help reduce pain by alleviating pressure on the nail bed and toes. Soak your toes first to soften the nails or trim after a shower.
Onychomycosis does not necessarily require treatment.[3] The antifungal medication, terbinafine, taken by mouth appears to be the most effective but is associated with liver problems.[2][4] Trimming the affected nails when on treatment also appears useful.[2] There is a ciclopirox containing nail polish, but it does not work as well.[2] The condition returns in up to half of cases following treatment.[2] Not using old shoes after treatment may decrease the risk of recurrence.[3]
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.
There are many possible causes of foot rashes. Additional causes include irritant or contact dermatitis, allergic rashes from shoes or other creams, pompholyx (dyshidrotic eczema), psoriasis, yeast infections, and bacterial infections (gram negative toe web infection and erythrasma). Since these conditions are often indistinguishable on superficial visual examination, it is important for your doctor to do his best to identify the precise cause. Since fungal infections are potentially curable, it is important not to miss this diagnosis.
​The American Orthopaedic Foot & Ankle Society (AOFAS) offers information on this site as an educational service. The content of FootCareMD, including text, images and graphics, is for informational purposes only. The content is not intended to substitute for professional medical advice, diagnoses or treatments. If you need medical advice, use the "Find an Orthopaedic Foot & Ankle Surgeon" tool at the top of this page or contact your primary doctor. 
Treatment: Nail fungus is a difficult condition to properly treat due to the average time before seeing results and the general lack of understanding regarding topical treatments. Fungus grows underneath the nail bed, making it extremely difficult to target. Certain nail fungus products, like topical ointments, contain nail penetrating ingredients that treat fungal nail infections underneath the nail bed where it grows.
Technically called “onychomycosis”, fungal infection of the nail plate (the hard outer nail) or nail bed (that lies under the hard nail) will most often appear as yellowish, white, black or green discolouration of the nail. The infected nail may also appear thickened or brittle. In severe cases, from long-term infection (where all the tissues of the nail have been infected), the infected nail may break up and fall off.

You can help prevent the return of toenail fungus by adopting some basic habits. Replace old shoes and socks regularly. Wear clean socks each day, and consider using a medicated shoe spray after every use. Wearing shower shoes in hotels, gyms, public pools, and showers is also very important to prevent reinfection.  Going to a nail salon that uses plastic liners in the whirlpool, bringing your own tools and disposing of files, buffers is also highly recommended.
Onychomycosis – commonly known as toenail fungus – is characterized by inflammation, pain, and swelling of the toe, as well as yellowing, thickening, and crumbling of the nail itself.  Toenail fungus can be the result of abnormal pH of the skin, continuous exposure to moisture, wearing synthetic socks, compromised immune system, sweat build-up in shoes, poor foot hygiene, or weak circulation such as that caused by diabetes.
Snake root extract comes from a plant in the sunflower family. A 2008 study conducted by the Centro de Investigación Biomédica del Sur and published in Planta Med, found that applying the extract to the affected nail over three months was more effective than treatment with the prescription anti-fungal Penlac (ciclopirox). Like natural remedies? Here are some more options.
Athlete's foot is divided into four categories or presentations: chronic interdigital athlete's foot, plantar (chronic scaly) athlete's foot (aka "moccasin foot"), acute ulcerative tinea pedis,[11] and vesiculobullous athlete's foot.[2][12][13] "Interdigital" means between the toes. "Plantar" here refers to the sole of the foot. The ulcerative condition includes macerated lesions with scaly borders.[11] Maceration is the softening and breaking down of skin due to extensive exposure to moisture. A vesiculobullous disease is a type of mucocutaneous disease characterized by vesicles and bullae (blisters). Both vesicles and bullae are fluid-filled lesions, and they are distinguished by size (vesicles being less than 5–10 mm and bulla being larger than 5–10 mm, depending upon what definition is used).
Occlusive shoe materials, such as vinyl, which cause the feet to remain moist, provide an excellent area for the fungus to proliferate. Likewise, absorbent socks like cotton that wick water away from your feet may help. Some individuals who sweat excessively benefit from the application of antiperspirants like 20% aluminum chloride (Drysol). Powders can help keep your feet dry. Although counterintuitive, if your feet can be soaked in a solution of aluminum acetate (Burow's solution or Domeboro solution) and then air dried with a fan, this can be very helpful if performed three or four times within 30 minutes. A home remedy of dilute white vinegar soaks, using one part vinegar and roughly four parts water, once or twice a day (as 10-minute foot soaks) may aid in treatment followed by evaporation can be helpful.
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.
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