Fungal toenails are fairly common, but still can be a source of self-consciousness and embarrassment for many individuals. Learn more about this condition and what we can do to help here at Palm Beach Podiatry. Even better, find out the steps you can take to prevent toenail fungus from happening in the first place.
The primary symptoms of fungal nails are a matter of appearance. You can tell that you have this condition—also known as onychomycosis—when your nails are brittle, crumbly, thickened, discolored and dull. The lack of shine and dark color from debris that builds up under a nail are indications of an infection, but also be aware of separation from the nailbed, pain, or even a foul odor.
Infection in your nails is caused by yeasts, molds, and fungi known as dermatophytes. These are microscopic organisms that can thrive in the dark and do not need sunlight to survive. They are typically found in warm, damp environments and invade the skin through tiny cuts and abrasions. They attach themselves to unprotected feet and will stick around if the conditions are right. Given that your feet are already warm, and the organisms are fine living in a dark sock and shoe, the only thing still needed is moisture.
Fungal nails can be treated, but the best course of action is to simply prevent them from occurring in the first place. Some habits and tips to help keep your toenail fungal-free include:
- Wash your feet every day. Use mild soap and warm water to wash off any potential contaminants. Afterwards, dry them thoroughly, being carefully to ensure that you include the areas between the toes (where fungus and bacteria can start to grow).
- Choose moisture-wicking socks. Certain fabrics are better at wicking away moisture than others. A key component to preventing this infection is to keep your feet dry, so pick up socks that are made from materials like wool, polypropylene, and nylon.
- Change damp socks. If you are working out or suffer from hyperhidrosis (a condition marked by excessive sweating), be sure to have a dry set of socks to change into once your others are damp.
- Wear shoes that are constructed from breathable materials. In addition to buying closed shoes of material that still allows your feet to breathe, wear open-toed footwear or sandals when possible. As long as you do not live with diabetes, go barefoot at home to further decrease the risk of a fungal infection.
- Protect your feet in public. Common sources of the fungi that lead to infection include pool decks, locker rooms, and shower areas. When visiting any such places, wear shower shoes or sandals to protect your feet. Also, make sure you are wearing your own and not borrowing someone else’s.
- Alternate shoes. Have two pairs of shoes that you can wear on alternating days. This will allow each pair 24 hours to thoroughly dry out between uses.
There are over-the-counter products that might help with this condition. Often, these are more effective for mild cases. If you have tried these treatments without having success, you need professional help. Should this be the case, techniques we might employ include prescription medications (either oral or topical), nail removal, or laser therapy.
Laser therapy is a highly-effective, safe procedure that is FDA-approved for treating fungal toenails. Our process uses focused wavelengths of light (the lasers) to specifically target the offensive fungus. After treatment, you simply walk out the front door and continue with your normal activities – no down time!
Top Fungal Toenail Care in Boynton Beach, FL
When it comes to care for your toenails, Palm Beach Podiatry is your top choice. Our friendly staff is ready to help you and we have the knowledgeable foot specialists to ensure effective treatment. Call our Boynton Beach office at (561) 734-3100; our Loxahatchee office at (561) 791-7773; or our Fort Pierce office at (772) 468-0089. You can also schedule your appointment with us online today.