Like most nail infections, Toenail Infections are also caused by a fungus. A Toenail Fungus usually affects more than one nail at a time. Toenail Fungus is referred to as Onychomycosis by physicians. This infection usually begins as a small yellow or whitish spot along the tip of the toenail. Most people tend to disregard this early symptom as dull coloration due to excessive dryness of the skin. As the infection spreads, the protein content within the nail-bed is depleted and the discoloration becomes more pronounced.
Understanding Toenail Fungus Infection
Please note that the term “Toenail Fungus” is slightly misleading. This is because the infection actually begins within the nail-bed and the surrounding skin. The diseased appearance of the toenail is just a result of the infection spreading within the tissues. Toenail Fungus is found across every age-group and gender. Instances of a serious toenail infection among younger children are lesser. The elderly are more prone to it. In advanced cases of Toenail Fungal infections, the entire nail develops a dark-yellow shade with a crumbly appearance. The outer edges of such toenails are particularly unsightly with degenerative edges and a thickened, blighted interior.
Toenail Fungus Causes
Toenail Fungus Infections are caused by a particular type of tissue-eating microscopic fungi called Dermatophytes. These fungi gain entry into the nail-bed through cracked skin/nails or injuries to the toe.
Understand Toenail Fungus
Among all types of Fungal Nail Infections, including Toenail Infections, it is the skin under the nail rather than the nail itself that is infected. The degenerated state of the nail is due to fungi weakening the inner tissues. Dermatophytes multiply rapidly in dark and humid conditions. Thus, people wearing shoes & socks for most part of the day provide an ideal environment to these fungi. The infection spreads faster in the presence of moisture provided by sweating of the foot. The absence of oxygen and light within the tight footwear allows the fungi to grow quickly.
This infection is commonly found on the big and small toe but can attack any toe. Toenail Fungus Infections are highly contagious. Thus, even those maintaining impeccable self-hygiene can get infected. Toenail Fungus infections are commonly associated with places like gyms, lockers and swimming pools.
Typical Features of Toenail Fungus
It has been established that people with poor self-hygiene levels, particularly those who don’t change their socks regularly, are more prone to such infections. Those who wear very tight footwear and have a history of foot odor are also vulnerable to repeated Toenail Fungal Infections. People, who wear foot-gripping footwear and sweat profusely, like athletes, are highly prone to Toenail Fungus.
Toenail Infections are also likely to be found more in people who have a medical history of skin allergies. Such folks usually have a disturbed skin pH level that allows the fungi to gain an easy foothold. Similarly, people who are prone to having skin break-outs or fungal infections during the humid season are more likely to get Toenail Fungus. Other people who are more vulnerable to Toenail Fungus Infections include those:
- Having high blood sugar levels, like Diabetics
- Who are more than 60 years old, i.e. the elderly
- With a history of skin conditions with dry, flaky skin & skin debris, like Eczema
- Sharing their footwear, socks, nail clippers and towels
- Residing in primarily hot and humid conditions
Treating Toenail Fungus
If the Toenail Fungus is not treated appropriately, the affected toenail can split or crumble. If you are suffering from Toenail Fungus, it is better to seek a comprehensive treatment. Many medications for toenail fungus provide temporary relief, merely subduing the symptoms temporarily. This allows the fungi to re-emerge. Furthermore, Toenail Fungus drugs tend to have serious side-effects, such as reacting harmfully with the skin.
Toenail Fungus Infection Symptoms
Apart from the discoloration, some other symptoms suggest onset of a serious Toenail Fungus infection. This includes suffering from pain upon walking or standing for a few minutes. Feeling irritation along the toes, like a severe itch, that doesn’t go away upon scratching.
The typical odor found among toenail fungus sufferers is due to the dead tissue debris. These debris are created by the fungi (called Dermatophytes) feeding upon the nail-bed and the surrounding connective tissue. The debris slowly accumulates under the toenail. The decomposing debris attracts more fungi & bacteria which induces the typical smell.
Fungal infection on the nails can be an inhibiting condition. Some people even avoid going out and meeting people because they are embarrassed by their feet. Having toenail fungus limits the choice of footwear for a person, and also limits the things that he or she can do.
Handling Toenail Fungus Infection
Some people try to hide their Toenail Fungus infection by painting their nails or wearing socks throughout the day. However, these measures prove detrimental and aggravate the problem. Rather than allowing the problem to progress, it makes sense to seek an effective treatment. People who ignore Toenail Infection Symptoms usually suffer from a lifetime of toenail problems including a smelly odor, toenails with weak, crumbling edges and distorted toenail development.
Toenail Fungus Treatment
Many anti-fungal solutions are general in action, i.e. they don’t address the toenail fungus specifically. These topical medicines merely suppress the symptoms for a few days/weeks. Toenail Fungus Infection usually resurfaces if it is not cured properly. During advanced stages, the infection can eat-up the entire toenail, making the toes more vulnerable to other bacterial/fungal infections.
Learn about Natural Toenail Fungus Treatment Options that relieve Toenail Infection Symptoms and eradicate Toenail Fungus permanently.
How to avoid Toenail Fungus?
The most effective way to avoid Toenail Fungus infections is to be more particular about your personal hygiene. Toenail Fungus is highly contagious. Thus, if you are in a habit of sharing your towels, gym-wear or frequently use public showers, you are more vulnerable to Toenail Fungi.
Tips to Prevent Toenail Fungus Infection
Since Toenail Fungus infection is limited to the feet, it makes sense to follow a systematic foot-hygiene regimen. This includes changing your socks every day and undertaking other precautions, listed below:
- Be particular about not wearing socks made from material that irritates your skin.
- Don’t wear any footwear that fits too tight.
- Ensure that you soak your feet in warm water every few days. Ideally, you should use warm water to which some common salt and vinegar is added. This helps to disinfect the feet.
- Toenail Fungus thrives on moist parts of the body. Thus, never wear your socks before drying your feet properly.
- Remember to change your socks often if you are prone to sweating profusely.
- Footwear made from washable fabrics, like athletic or training foot-gear, should be washed occasionally.
- At home, try to wear open footwear, i.e. which allow more air to pass through. This includes open sandals and shoes with a ventilation/breathing system.
- Never share your nail clippers or files and socks.
Managing First Signs of Toenail Fungus Infection
If the feet seem itchy and you suspect a Toenail Fungus Infection, don’t scratch the feet harshly. It is better to wash them, dry them and apply a natural anti-fungal solution like Funginix. This approach thwarts the onset of a Toenail Fungus infection.