Toenail fungus or nail fungus, also known as onychomycosis, is a common fungal infection that affects the nails and can be very difficult to treat once you have it. Nail fungus is one is one of the most common fungal infections and affects anywhere from 10-20% of the general population.
As my grandmother used to say, “An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure”, that definitely applies with fungal nail infections, so it is important to take preventive measures to avoid contracting toenail fungus. Here are some ways to prevent toenail fungus:
- Keep your feet clean and dry: Fungi thrive in warm, moist environments. Keep your feet clean and dry, especially after showering or swimming.
- Wear breathable footwear: Choose shoes that allow your feet to breathe, such as sandals, flip-flops, or shoes made of breathable materials like canvas or leather. Avoid wearing shoes made of synthetic materials, which can trap moisture and promote fungal growth.
- Avoid sharing footwear: Sharing shoes can increase the risk of fungal infection.
- Trim your toenails regularly: Keep your toenails trimmed and clean. Avoid cutting them too short or rounding the corners, which can lead to ingrown toenails. A good pair of nail clippers are essential
- Wear protective footwear in public places: Wear shoes, sandals or flip-flops or in public areas like swimming pools, locker rooms, and showers.
- Don’t go barefoot in public areas: Avoid walking barefoot in public areas to prevent the spread of toenail fungus. Use shower shoes
- Use antifungal powder or spray: Use antifungal powder or spray in your shoes to kill any existing fungus and prevent new infections.
- Treat any existing infections: If you have a fungal infection, seek treatment immediately to prevent it from spreading to other nails or to other people.
- Maintain good hygiene: Practice good hygiene by washing your hands and feet regularly, and avoiding contact with infected nails or skin. If you have sweaty feet, adding the antifungal foot powder to your shoes may not be a bad idea.
- Also if you use nail polish, you may want to consider taking a nail polish holiday as the nonporous properties of nail polish can make the environment more favorable for fungal nail infection to grow.
What happens if I get a toenail fungal infection? The answer is complex as it depends on a lot on your age, overall health like do you have circulation issues associated with diabetes and age, how many infected nail even the shoes you wear and sports you play, which can lead to nail injury and can make you more susceptible to toenail fungus, as it creates an opportunity for the fungus to enter the body and start to grow on the nail bed. Once in the nail bed it becomes very difficult to treat as most topical treatments that you can find at the local pharmacy known as over the counter treatments have limited penetration and only work if you have a superficial infection (on the top of the nail), this is very rare as it typically grows from the bottom up. This is even true for many of the prescription topical treatments, with a combination of topical and oral medications being the most effective treatment option. If you would like to learn more about treatment options click here.
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Toenail fungal infections are one of the more difficult infections to treat as they do not go away on their own and take a long time for the treatment to work (9-12 months), which means you have to be compliant with your medication as prescribed. If you don’t there is a high chance of the infection recurring or returning.
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It all starts with prevention
By following these tips, you can reduce your risk of contracting toenail fungus and maintain healthy nails. These tips can also be applied to other fungal skin infection like athlete’s foot (tinea pedis), which can increase your chance of contracting toenail fungal infections and other infections like other common infections and even a bacterial infection like cellulitis.
To prevent toenail fungus follow the steps above and always wear flip-flops when you are in public places such as locker rooms, public showers etc as fungus grows best in warm damp environments this is also the same environment that foot fungus such as athlete’s foot thrives in. Any toenail fungal infection can also be spread to your friends and family, so treatment is important and you do have it, wear shower shoes in commonly used spaces until it has been treated by a health care professional.
About the Author: Jeff Strauss received his pre-med/biology degree from Villanova University and has become an industry expert in the field of dermatology, with 20 plus years of experience. He is also the CEO and Co-Founder of Distinct Dermatology Inc.