Flip Flop Fungi: Toenail fungus cause, treatment & prevention
Treat and prevent unsightly toenail fungus in time for summer!
This time of year with “sandal season” around the corner, we see a number of patients with concerns about their nails. Though nail disorders are rarely life-threatening, they can cause great embarrassment, and in some cases interfere with one’s day-to-day activities. By far, the most common is nail fungus – in fact, it accounts for more than 50 percent of all nail diseases.
Toenail fungus (also called onychomycosis or tinea unguium) is an extremely common condition that we dermatology providers encounter on a daily basis. The incidence of nail fungus seems to increase throughout life – only about 2.6 percent of children are affected, while the rate is up to 90 percent in the elderly. People who are very active can be at higher risk for it, as the warmth and moisture produced by sweating is an ideal environment for the fungus to grow. (Active people may also pick it up from public showers and locker rooms, particularly if they go barefoot.) Having a weakened immune system is another risk factor, and genetics and the climate in which you live play a role too.
We’ve all seen what nail fungus looks like – the nails tend to be greenish-yellow, thickened, and crumbly. Usually it starts on just one or two nails, but with time it tends to spread to others. The nails can become quite painful and interfere with walking and running. Though it’s virtually never life threatening, people with a weakened immune system or diabetes can develop serious infections from it. But its worst effect is the emotional stress and self-consciousness that comes from having it.
Though there is no permanent cure for nail fungus, there are many effective treatments. (FYI – when you come for your appointment, we may want to do a nail clipping to make sure it’s really fungus, so don’t clip your nails too short beforehand!) The most effective prescription treatments are antifungal pills that you take for several weeks. There are also topical antifungal medications, such as lacquers that you paint on like nail polish. The key with the topicals is sheer persistence – they work, but the medication has to penetrate all the way down to the nail bed. This can take a long time, often the better part of a year. Nail fungus very commonly comes back, but using a prescription topical medication once in a while after the fungus clears up and taking preventative measures are the best ways to prevent this from happening.
The BEST treatment, however, is prevention! Keeping your feet clean and dry is a must; don’t forget to dry off your toes after a shower. Antifungal powders in your shoes are very helpful, especially if you’re very active. (Moisture-wicking socks are a good idea too.) Never go barefoot in a public gym or shower. And if you get manicures or pedicures, make sure the salon sterilizes their instruments!
We know how annoying and unsightly toenail fungus can be. But if you’re a sufferer, this is a great time to talk about treatment! Call KMC Dermatology at 844-KMC-DERM; we’ll be happy to help.