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.
I can tell you my own mother struggled with toenail fungus on her big toe for over 10 years, and the reason why she originally got it and then continued to struggle with this fungus was the chemotherapy she went through when diagnosed with breast cancer years ago. After going through chemo, she had systemic yeast and candida issues and then developed the toenail fungus. The exact treatment I detail below is what we used with her to successfully erase her fungus.
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.
Fungal nail infections and the resultant nail destruction can promote other sources of infection like cellulitis (a bacterial skin infection) and other forms of tinea, and aggravate foot problems resulting from other illnesses such as diabetes. Diagnosis is usually confirmed by looking at nail clippings through a microscope or other tests before starting treatment.
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.
Since some people are simply more prone to fungal infections, they are also prone to repeated infection. Preventive measures include keeping your feet clean and dry, avoiding prolonged moist environments, using socks in airport security lines, removing shoes, and allowing the feet skin to "breathe," avoiding walking barefoot, especially in public areas like swimming pools and gyms, avoiding contact with known infected people, and avoiding soaking and contaminated tool usage at nail salons. Weekly applications of a topical antifungal foot cream or sprinkling of antifungal foot powder (Zeasorb Foot Powder) into shoes may also be helpful.
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.
If you can consume a diet that’s high in good fats and proteins along with some quality fiber — and really reduce the sugar and starches — then you’ll be on the path to eliminating candida in your body, and therefore signs of toenail fungus. Here are some more details on which types of foods to limit or remove from your diet in order to combat yeast and fungal overgrowth …
Physical exam alone has been shown to be an unreliable method of diagnosing fungal nails. There are many conditions that can make nails look damaged, so even doctors have a difficult time. In fact, studies have found that only about 50% of cases of abnormal nail appearance were caused by fungus. Therefore, laboratory testing is almost always indicated. Some insurance companies may even ask for a laboratory test confirmation of the diagnosis in order for antifungal medicine to be covered. A nail sample is obtained either by clipping the toenail or by drilling a hole in the nail. That piece of nail is sent to a lab where it can by stained, cultured, or tested by PCR (to identify the genetic material of the organisms) to identify the presence of fungus. Staining and culturing can take up to six weeks to get a result, but PCR to identify the fungal genetic material, if available, can be done in about one day. However, this test is not widely used due to its high cost. If a negative biopsy result is accompanied by high clinical suspicion, such as nails that are ragged, discolored, thickened, and crumbly, it warrants a repeat test due to the prevalence of false-negative results in these tests.
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
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.