A toenail infection is not always taken seriously. But, it should be, especially by someone that has poor circulation due to diabetes or another illness. Here’s a look at the types of infections that are common, their symptoms and how they are treated.
Onychomycosis is the most common nail disease. The infections are caused by various kinds of fungus. When it is caused by dermatophytes, it may be referred to as tinea unguium or tinea of the nails.
The symptoms typically start with a thickening of the nail plate, often making them more difficult to trim. As the disease progresses, the nails become cloudy or white in appearance. If it continues to progress, the entire nail may become yellow, very thick and crumbly.
There is usually no pain, except in the most severe cases, but the condition is uncomfortable and causes a great deal of embarrassment. Treatment is challenging, as most anti-fungal medications are only somewhat effective.
The course of action that causes the fewest side effects is topically applied liquids or creams. Those containing menthol or ethanoic acid are most effective.
More commonly known as ingrown toenails, this kind of toenail infection is usually caused by bacteria and actually affects the skin around the nails, not the nails themselves. Because of that, it is easier to treat. Topical antibiotic or antiseptic ointments are effective for mild cases. Oral antibiotics are necessary for more severe cases.
The symptoms may include pain, swelling, redness or oozing of pus. The top or side of the toe will be sensitive to any kind of pressure. So, wearing opened toed shoes during the recovery period is helpful.
Ingrown toenails are not as common as fungal infections. It is believed that there is a genetic predisposition to ingrown toenails. That’s not the case with fungal infections. They are easily transmitted from one person to another and from one toe to another. The infections are actually in the nail, rather than in the skin. So, it’s harder to “get at” them.
Preventing toenail infection is actually easier than treating one, particularly where fungal infections are concerned. Regular maintenance, careful cutting, the use of anti-fungal ointments, lotions or sprays and keeping the feet clean and dry are among the steps for preventing nail diseases.
Fungal infections, of all kinds, are more common in athletic individuals. That’s why we call tinea pedis, athlete’s foot. The fungus is commonly spread in bathhouses and around swimming pools.
By washing and drying the feet carefully, athlete’s foot can be prevented, just as a fungal toenail infection is preventable, too. They are more common in athletes, as well.
You should always remember to dry the area between your toes, because that is where the infections typically start. Wearing clean socks and rotating shoes is recommended, in order to avoid re-infection or spreading the disease from one toe to another.
If you are not successful at treating a toenail infection on your own, a doctor or podiatrist can prescribe an oral medication. You’ll have to be patient, though. It takes time to be effective.