A fungal toenail (also known as “onychomycosis”) is a fungal infection of the nail. It can cause the toenail to become thick, discoloured, brittle and fragile. As the fungal infection grows, it can crack the nail or even lift it off the nail bed. This can cause pain and discomfort.
While not necessarily a serious health condition, toenail fungus is contagious and will progress if not properly dealt with. Toenail fungus can also be difficult to treat on your own, so it is best to consult a foot specialist as soon as you suspect a problem: Even if you’re unsure, it’s better to be safe than sorry.
Common signs and symptoms of toenail fungus are:
The symptoms may affect part of a toenail, the whole toenail, or multiple toenails.
While some of these symptoms may not necessarily indicate a problem (after all, it is somewhat normal for our toenails to yellow a bit as we age), it is recommended that you see a foot specialist or medical practitioner as soon as you notice any changes to the nail – just to be on the safe side.
A fungus is a tiny living microorganism. Yeast, mold and mushrooms are examples of fungi. Fungi are naturally present on the body, but when they begin to overgrow, you can develop an infection. Fungal infections can develop anywhere on the body, but the feet are especially vulnerable because our shoes provide a dark, warm, and moist environment for fungus to thrive.
A fungal toenail develops when a fungus finds its way into your nail through tiny cracks or skin breaks by the nail. It then makes itself at home underneath the toenail, where it feeds off nail tissue, grows and reproduces. As the fungus grows and more spores form, it causes the nail to change in colour, thickness and composition. Eventually the fungus itself can dislodge the nail off the nail bed.
There are many species of fungus that can cause toenail fungus. The most common are called dermatophytes. Candida (yeasts) and certain molds can also cause toenail fungus.
Athlete’s foot is another common fungal infection that affects the feet; however it is a fungal infection of skin as opposed to the nail.
Toenail fungal infections are more difficult to treat than athlete’s foot because toenail fungus lives under the nail. The nail essentially traps the fungus beneath it and serves as a barrier to prevent medication from actually penetrating to the fungus. The nail bed also lacks the air exposure to dry out fungus-friendly moisture accumulation.
Although there are a wealth of over-the-counter antifungal medications, they are not effective at fully curing and eradicating the fungus – they do a better job at maintaining it or addressing the symptoms. To properly treat and get rid of a fungal infection once and for all, treatment by a medical practitioner or foot specialist is often required.
A chiropodist can treat your toenail fungus through the following methods:
The following can also supplement your toenail fungus treatment by reducing moisture accumulation in the affected area (fungi love moist environments):
These items are available at our foot clinic and online shop.
Certain risk factors can make you more prone to developing fungal toenails:
Here are various foot care solutions for preventing fungal infection in your toenails:
Moisture-control socks, shoes, and sandals are available in our clinic store and online shop.
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