Toes

Your feet are mighty warriors in your body — after all, they support the rest of your body for 24 hours a day, seven days a week! But since people often take healthy feet for granted, they tend not to notice when something is wrong with their toes and/or feet until they’re seriously in pain. 

Take toe fungus, for example. This common ailment affects millions of Americans regularly, some without even being aware of it. Because toe fungus can really put a damper on those twinkle toes of yours, it is important to understand exactly what it is, how it can affect you, and how you can treat the fungus properly. Here’s everything you need to know about toe fungus.

What exactly is toe fungus?

Fungal infections can happen anywhere in the body if there is an overproduction of fungus in the bloodstream. Fungus occurs naturally alongside the other bacteria in our body, but when it starts to overgrow, it can lead to an infection.

However, since fungus thrives in warm, moist environments, it is very common to experience fungus in and around the toenail and nail bed.

What are the causes of toe fungus?

There are plenty of risk factors when it comes to developing toe fungus. Those with certain conditions are more susceptible than others, such as those who:

  • Are older, and suffer from restrictive blood flow in the feet

  • Sweat heavily, such as athletes

  • Wear artificial nails

  • Have visited nail salons who did not follow proper sanitation methods

  • Have diabetes

  • Have suffered a nail injury 

  • Have a weakened immune system

  • Regularly swim in a public swimming pool

While these are some risk factors, anyone can suffer from toe fungus. For the health and wellbeing of your toes, it is important to know some specific symptoms and signs of toe fungus so you can seek treatment right away.

What are the symptoms of toe fungus?

Not all toe fungus looks the same. Depending on the severity of the fungus, it may affect part of a nail, a few nails, or multiple nails on each foot. Look out for these common signs, according to Dr. Velimir Petkov, a leading podiatrist in New Jersey:

  • White and/or yellow streaks on the nail

  • Scaling under the nail

  • Flaking white areas on the nail

  • Deep crevices, or pits, in the nail

  • A crumbling corner, or tip, of the nail

  • Yellow spots on the bottom of the nail

  • A nail that has partially lifted off the nail bed

  • A thick nail 

  • A brittle nail

  • An odorous nail

  • Loss of the nail completely

“If you are unsure about whether you might or might not have toenail fungus, you should consider having your toenail biopsied,” says Dr. Petkov, a board certified Clifton podiatrist.

What are some treatments for toe fungus?

There are plenty of different treatment options for toe fungus, depending on the strain you have. First, your podiatrist will do an inspection of your nail to properly diagnose you, and they may have to take a clipping to send off to a lab to see the exact fungal strain. There are four common solutions:

  • Antifungal nail polish that you paint onto your nails, just like a laquer.

  • Antifungal nail cream that you rub into your nails after they have been soaked in warm water.

  • Prescription medications meant to clear out the infection properly.

  • Surgery to either temporarily or permanently remove the nail.

It is important to know that even if you are proactive with your treatment, it is very common for toe fungus to grow back. This is why it is important to be diligent and contact a podiatrist as soon as possible when you notice something is off with your nails.

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