Fungal nails are often caused by the spread of fungal infections like athlete’s foot, or by the use of artificial nails or nail polish. Injury to the nail may be another cause. Fungal nails may become thickened, inflamed or sensitive, and turn unnatural colors.
Thickened toenails are a result of fungal infections but also could be caused by pressure from shoes or conditions such as diabetes, psoriasis, or vascular disease. Along with thickening, the nail may appear ridged, brittle, or yellowish. The nail may also feel painful when pressure is put on it. Since fungal problems may be related to other medical problems, your podiatrist needs to look at your medical history, examine your foot and skin, and possibly do other tests, such as a culture (sample) from the infected area.
Treatment depends on what type of infection you have. Various kinds of medication may be used in treating a fungal problem. Fungal nails are usually more resistant and difficult to treat. Topical or oral antifungal medications may be prescribed. This can help revent ulcerations under the nail while keeping the fungus from spreading to other nails. Secondary bacterial infections may require antibiotic treatment. Debridement may be suggested and involves trimming, filing, or grinding away the diseased part of the nail. Permanent nail removal is another possible form of treatment. Successful treatment usually involves a combination of medication and self-care.
Your daily habits are important to prevent fungal problems. To avoid problems, trim your toenails straight across without cutting down into the corners. If you can’t you’re your own nails, ask your podiatrist to do so for you. Always dry your feet thoroughly after you bathe or shower. Be sure to dry between your toes. Foot powders can also help absorb moisture. Ask your podiatrist what kind of socks are best for you and change them often. To help avoid fungus-causing perspiration, alternate the shoes you wear so they have at least a day to dry out. Get your feet measured, your size may change as your age. Wear shoes that are supportive and roomy enough for your toes to wiggle. Also, try to wear shoes made of breathable materials like leather or canvas. Beware of bare feet! Wear sandals or thongs in public areas such as pools, showers, or locker rooms.
If not treated, nail fungus infection may cause pain and permanent nail deformity, or it may spread to other nails.