School is back In session and summer is coming to an end here in Montgomery County. But the Texas Heat is here to stay and we all deserve to walk confidently in our favorite footwear. However, this can be difficult if you are embarrassed about the appearance of your feet due to toenail fungus.
Chronic fungal infections of the nails/toenails are known as onychomycosis. In North America the incidence of onychomycosis is up to 14% and fungal infections are responsible for 50% of all nail disease. These nail fungal infections can make the nail appear raised, thick, discolored, and even at times painful. It can also cause the nail to crumble and split or separate from the skin. Risk factors include working in a humid/warm environment, heavy perspiration, nail injuries, constantly wearing closed toe shoes and socks, and walking in damp public places. Also, men are more likely to get it than women.
To prevent nail fungus you need to take care of your toes:
- Use soap and water to wash your feet daily and dry thoroughly, don’t forget in between the toes
- Trim toenails straight across
- Make sure tools you use for a pedicure/manicure are clean and do not share them with other people
- Do not cover up discolored nails with polish, let them “breathe”
- Choose socks and footwear that wick moisture away and have plenty of ventilation
- Wear shower shoes in wet public areas
- Keep an eye on the appearance of your nail beds and note any changes each month.
If symptoms are not improving and get worse, give your doctor a call. Better to get adequate treatment early! Once you have the infection it is very hard to get rid of. If you have a chronic medical condition such as diabetes, peripheral vascular disease, psoriasis, increased age (greater than 65 years old) or have a weakened immune system it is highly important to treat the fungal infection early. If not they can worsen and lead to complications such as ulceration of the foot or infection of the bone.
Treatment of toenail fungus can be difficult, there is no perfect cure. Topical medications are available over the counter but work less than 50% of the time. Oral medications have better success rates and do not require as long to treat. Lastly, laser treatment may be an option for some people and tends to have the highest success rates. Topical medications require the longest treatment period but have very few side effects. The anti-fungal prescriptions can be harmful to the liver and may require lab work prior to starting but they tend to be more effective. No matter which treatment modality you try, it can take 6 months to a year for the nail to return to normal.
Don’t wait any longer to walk confidently and feel comfortable in your footwear! Take a step towards nice-looking, healthy feet by speaking to your primary care doctor about your fungal infection.
Dr. Dockery is a resident physician who sees patients of all ages and provides obstetrical services at Lone Star Family Health Center, a non-profit 501©3 Federally Qualified Health Center operating facilities in Conroe, Spring, Willis, Grangerland, and Huntsville, and serving as home to a fully integrated Family Medicine Residency Program to increase the number of Family Medicine physicians for Texas and our community.