When was the last time you looked at your toenails? Believe it or not, they can offer clues to your health. Sometimes, these clues are less obvious — like how spoon-shaped indentations can mean you’re anemic or pits in the nail’s surface can indicate psoriasis. However, the signs are harder to miss at other times, like when you have a fungal infection.
Nail fungus is a common problem that causes a variety of symptoms, including:
Both your toenails and fingernails are susceptible to fungal infections, but they’re most common on your feet. Board-certified podiatrist and wound care specialist Michael Tran, DPM, treats nail fungus infections at AllCare Foot & Ankle Center at locations in Arlington and Dallas, Texas.
Toenail fungus is one of the leading reasons that people see podiatrists. Here’s what you should know about this contagious condition.
Your feet naturally carry a population of fungi, even when you practice the best hygiene. You can also acquire fungus from common surfaces that support fungal growth.
The most common cause of fungal infection involves dermatophyte. However, you can also develop nail infections from yeast and molds. Most fungi thrive in dark, warm, and moist environments, which make your feet an ideal environment for fungal infection.
When you come in contact with a fungal organism, it can also penetrate the surface of a toenail where it can grow unabated when conditions are right. Anyone can develop a fungal infection, but your chances are higher if you’re over 65 and have any of the following conditions:
Also, wearing closed-toed shoes for prolonged periods can foster a perfect environment for fungi to flourish. Frequent use of public showers or swimming pools increases your exposure to new sources of fungus.
About 10% of Americans experience a nail fungus infection at some point, with that number climbing to 50% for people age 70 and older. That’s because nail fungus is highly contagious and spreads easily when people touch infected surfaces.
A common fungus is athlete’s foot. This infection affects the skin on your feet and spreads when bare feet come in contact with contaminated surfaces — and it can infect your toenails. Examples of these areas include locker rooms, swimming pool decks, saunas, or other public places where you usually don’t wear shoes.
You can also come in contact with fungal infections at nail salons. If you use professional nail services, always ask about their sanitizing procedures because fungus can easily transfer from person to person via infected files, clippers, and other unsterilized tools.
Your chances of contracting nail fungus also increase if someone in your home has a fungal infection.
While treatments exist, fungal infections can be notoriously difficult to eradicate, especially with over-the-counter solutions. If you find yourself in high-risk environments for foot fungus, take extra precautions to protect your feet. To avoid an infection, Dr. Tran recommends that you:
While you can reduce your risk of a fungal infection, you may not be able to eliminate it completely.
If infection sets in, a visit to Dr. Tran is your best option. He can recommend an effective treatment based on the type of fungal infection you have. In most cases, this involves prescription oral or topical antifungal medications.
To discuss additional ways to protect yourself or get treatment, contact the AllCare Foot & Ankle Center location nearest you by calling or booking a visit online today.