One of the most common concerns amongst people when it comes to their feet are the changes that occur on their toenails. One might get concerned when they notice discoloration, thickening, or crumbling of their toenails. Sometimes one can experience all three events occurring at the same time. What causes these changes and why?
One of the main causes of change of the toenails is a fungal infection, also known as onchomycosis. This is an infection of the nails caused by a fungus. Fungi can live on nails, dead tissues of the hair, and outer skin layers. Fungal nails are more common in adults and in most cases follow fungal infections of the skin. How does one contract fungus in the nails? There are a number of ways this can occur. The fungi that cause infection thrive in moist, dark environments. These include public showers, swimming pools, gyms, and other areas where people sweat a lot. Those who use these facilities regularly are at a higher risk of contracting the fungi. Other things that can increase the risk of a fungal infection include getting manicures and pedicures where the tools used are not sterilized correctly, having moist skin for a long time, wearing closed-toe footwear, compromised immune system, and having a nail deformity or nail disease.
There are many preventative measures one can take to reduce the risk of contracting a fungal infection. These include:
- Keeping the feet clean and dry on a daily basis.
- Avoiding pedicures at places that do not sterilize their tools properly.
- Wearing water shoes or sandals on a pool deck when not in the pool and when using public facilities such as showers, baths, etc.
- Changing socks on a daily basis.
- Airing out shoes using a deodorizer to help kill any fungal spores that may live in the shoe.
If you do have a fungal nail infection there are a variety of treatment options available. These treatment options range from topical and oral antifungal medication to laser treatment that is now available to help remove fungus from the nails. These treatment options to take time so please note you will not see immediate results. You must adhere to your treatment plan and should see an improvement within 3-6 months depending on the treatment option.
For more information, or to book an assessment, please contact Ontario Foot and Orthotics at one of our two locations: 519-623-3000 (Cambridge), 905-878-6479 (Milton). Or visit us online at www.ontariofoot.ca.