Foot fungus blues
Fungal infection of the toenail, called onychomycosis, is a common foot problem. Often, the problem is ignored because people can have it for many years before it causes any pain, according to the American Podiatric Medical Association (APMA).
But it's important to get treatment for the condition before it spreads.
A group of fungi called dermatophytes consists of simple parasites that attack the keratin, or protein substance, in the nail.
This causes an infection of the bed and plate under the surface of the nail. The nail may become thick and turn yellowish-brown or darker in color and develop an unpleasant odor.
The infection can spread to other toenails, the skin or even the fingernails.
Fungi are difficult to avoid because they live throughout our environment. Toenails are vulnerable around damp areas where you're likely to walk barefoot, such as swimming pools, locker rooms and showers.
Nail polish and artificial nails can prevent water from evaporating through the naturally porous surface of the nail. If you have problems with fungus, avoid polish and disinfect your home pedicure tools.
Check your feet regularly and observe good hygiene to help prevent fungal infections.
The APMA offers this advice for keeping your feet fungus-free:
- Wash your feet regularly with soap and water.
- Dry feet thoroughly after bathing and swimming.
- Wear shower shoes in public showers.
- Keep toenails trimmed.
- Change shoes, socks or hosiery more than once a day.
- Wear socks made of synthetic fibers that keep away moisture.
Fungal infections are treated with daily cleansing, combined with medication. Some medications are put directly on the nail, while others are swallowed. A procedure called debridement may be needed to remove parts of the nail.