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.
If you have diabetes or a weakened immune system, treatment is especially important. After getting a fungal nail infection, people who have diabetes have an increased risk of developing sores that do not heal. Sores that do not heal can lead to a serious health problem. It’s important to see a dermatologist (or other doctor) at the first sign of a nail problem. A dermatologist can tell you whether you have a nail infection or something else.
Dermatologists specialize in the treatment of skin disorders, including athlete's foot. You may find a board-certified dermatologist through http://www.aad.org. Additionally, family medicine physicians, internal medicine physicians, pediatricians, podiatrists (foot doctors), and other practitioners may also treat this common infection. Most primary care physicians can treat athlete's foot successfully.
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.
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.
Use soap and water to wash your feet, and dry well, including between toes. Trim your toenails -- straight across -- to keep them shorter than the end of your toe. Make sure the tools you use are clean, too. Wash clippers and files with soap and water, then wipe with rubbing alcohol. You might be tempted to cover up discolored nails with polish, but don't. Your nail bed can't "breathe," which keeps fungus from going away.