The thought of fungus growing on your body might make your skin crawl, but fungal toenails is actually a fairly common condition that we treat often. When the infection takes place in the toenail itself, it is known as onychomycosis. This is different from a fungal infection of the skin of the foot, known as athlete’s foot or tinea pedis. You can recognize toenail fungus by the discoloration, thickness, and crumbling of your nails.
A fungus is a microorganism that thrives in warm, moist places. When covered with socks and shoes, your feet can create such an environment. Fungal infections are more prevalent in warm weather when feet tend to sweat more. A fungal infection can occur anywhere on your body and becomes more common with age. The good news about toenail fungus is that it is treatable and you can take preventative measures to reduce the risk of it happening in the first place.
Where Does It Come From?
Fungi are microbial organisms that do not require sunlight to survive. They often live in moist, warm environments and can easily be picked up in public pools, gyms, locker rooms and other damp areas. The infection can be spread from person to person, especially between family members. Nail fungus can often begin as athlete’s foot. The infection can spread through a tiny crack in the nail or begin under the nail fold and spread from there. The infection can also spread from one toe to another or to other parts of the body.
Whereas it can happen to anyone, there are a variety of risk factors that make it more likely for someone to contract fungal toenails. These include:
- Failing to dry feet thoroughly, including between toes.
- Living with family members or roommates who have nail fungus.
- Having a skin condition (like psoriasis) or a minor nail or skin injury.
- Spending time in public swimming pools, gym locker rooms, and showering areas.
- Wearing socks or shoes that do not provide optimal ventilation or absorb perspiration.
- Working in moist or humid environments where your shoes and socks may become damp or wet.
- Living with diabetes or a weakened immune system.
- Having abnormal pH levels of your skin.
Toenail fungus is certainly treatable, but it is always better to head off a condition early instead of having to deal with it later. With this in mind, there are steps that you can take to help avoid it. Avoid going barefoot in gym locker rooms, shower areas, and public pools by wearing shower shoes or sandals. Change your socks during the day if your feet sweat a lot. Do not share socks, shoes, or towels, especially with a friend or family member who has a fungal infection. Wash your feet thoroughly every day and dry them anytime they get wet.
Treating Fungal Toenails
If preventative measures haven’t been enough, or you already developed a fungal infection before learning how to prevent it, then it is time to come in to our office for treatment. Home treatment is not recommended for this condition because over-the-counter medications are not particularly effective and will only waste your time and money. Your best move is to enlist the help of the professionals at Shenandoah Podiatry and receive the effective treatment you need. We are equipped to eradicate the fungus and restore your nails to their natural, healthy condition with the use of laser therapy.
Our office uses a NuvoLase PinPointe FootLaser that is virtually painless, highly-effective, and only takes 30 minutes per session. The process may take up to three or four sessions for optimal effectiveness, but your toe will begin growing a clear, healthy nail following your first session. There are other treatment methods we can explore if this does not sound like something you would like to pursue.
For more information about laser therapy or additional treatment options for fungal toenails, simply contact one of our offices by calling (540) 904-1458 for our Roanoke, VA location. You can also use our online form to schedule an appointment today.