Have you ever had toenail fungus or athlete’s foot? If so, it probably wasn’t very pretty. It can send your nails looking yellow, thick, discoloured and the skin itchy and cracked. Thickened, fungal toenails can also cause discomfort when wearing shoes.
Foot and toenail fungus can be hard to treat. However, they’re both very common because exposure to the fungus that causes them is easy to do.
The fungus is a common enemy lurking throughout locker rooms that when infecting the skin can cause itching and burning symptoms. However, you may have contracted this foot condition even if you haven’t been to a gym or locker room. The two separate infections: one that affects the skin on the feet (Tinea pedis – athlete’s foot) and another infection that affects the toenails; called mycotic nails (onychomycosis or fungal toenail).
So how do you stop foot and toenail fungus in its tracks?
Fungi love dark, damp, warm places; so your feet are especially vulnerable to fungal infection.
What is Athlete’s Foot?
Tinea Pedis is a highly contagious fungal infection that is part of a larger family of fungal infections affecting the skin and nails. As mentioned above, the fungus thrives in moist, warm climates, and your gym, locker room, bathrooms and showers are breeding grounds for this fungus. It is here where the foot is in direct contact with the contaminated surfaces that you contract with the athlete’s foot.
Symptoms of an athlete’s foot could include a dry, scaly, itchy rash on the feet and moist, split skin between the toes.
What are Fungal nails?
This is a fungal infection of the nail. It happens when the fungus gets into the nail bed from a cut or break in the nail or repetitive trauma to the nail. The nail then continues to grow with the fungus within or beneath it. Toenail fungus is common and more common the older you get. Repeatedly getting an athlete’s foot infection and not treating it, can expose the nail to fungus. Similarly, the fungal spores from an infected nail could spread to the skin of the foot.
Fungal Nail symptoms may include; discoloured white to a yellowish-brown of the nails, that become thick, brittle and may separate from the nail bed. These things just look ugly, can often smell unpleasant and cause embarrassment.
What treatment options are available for toenail fungus?
Use over-the-counter antifungal creams and powders. We recommend using mycota cream and powder daily. For most people, the fungus on the skin should go away easily within 4 weeks of using these products daily with regular foot and hosiery hygiene. If your foot fungus is not going away, then book an appointment to see one of our Foot Health professionals.
Trimming the toenail. Have your Foot Health Professional regularly trim or burr’s down (thin) your toenail in combination with topical medication. By trimming and thinning the nail to remove the excessive fungally infected area, allows the medication to be absorbed and work better.
Topical Medications. These can be in a dropper form or very similar to a nail polish, where you apply it to toenails daily. You will need to be using these topical medications for about 12 months and allow healthy toenails to grow out, trimming away the previously infected nail.
Oral medications. Terbinafine is an oral medication that you take every day for 3-6 months. However, it can have severe liver side effects. You should speak with your GP about your suitability for this type of medication.
Nail removal. Sometimes completely removing the toenail (toenail avulsion) under local anaesthetic is seen as a treatment option for toenail fungus.
Top tips to combat foot fungus
The best way to combat foot fungus is to reduce your exposure to it. There are simple things you can do to prevent contracting foot and nail fungus.
- Wash and dry your feet well after exercising. Be sure to get between your toes; use a hairdryer on a cool setting if necessary to ensure the area is dry.
- If you use a communal area such as a shower at your gym or local pool, wear flip flops to ensure your feet don’t come into contact with contaminated surfaces.
- If you suspect an athlete’s foot infection, treat it right away with an over-the-counter cream and powder. If you don’t it’s only going to take hold!
- Skip the nail polish if you can. Wearing nail polish, gel or fake nails can sometimes trap moisture, creating a perfect place for fungus to grow.
- Throw away old shoes and slippers. Fungus can live in them. Use an anti-fungal spray in your newer shoes every morning before you slip them on. Alternatively, a dash of athlete’s foot powder in hosiery will penetrate through into the lining of shoes and do a similar job. Never share shoes or socks with other people.
- As the fungal spores that cause Tinea Pedis and Onychomycosis thrive in dark, damp environments, wear shoes that breathe and don’t trap sweat inside of them. Change your socks daily and allow your shoes to dry out completely before wearing them again, normally 24 hours.
- Be sure to protect your feet at home if someone has a foot infection.
What are the risks of waiting to treat the fungus?
The danger simply is it can spread to other parts of the body, such as the hands and groin. If you have a fungal infection on your feet, remember to put on socks before underwear, otherwise, it’s likely to spread to the groin area!
If for some reason you can’t treat your toenails or your feet rights away, at least use an antifungal cream or powder. Sanitise your footwear with Klenz.
If you are struggling with any of the symptoms listed in this blog, do get in touch with our footcare clinics in Beeston or Ilkeston. For more tips and information on foot-related problems visit our website.