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By Philip S. Pinsker, DPM PC
October 28, 2015
Tags: fungal toenails  

A fungal toenail may start out as just white marks on the nail or a discoloration. Often there is no pain and so consequently the person with a fungal nail doesn’t see any need to get treatment. Fungal nails (or onychomycosis as they are officially known) are actually infections, however, if left untreated, they can lead to more serious problems.

What Causes Fungal Nail Infections?

Dermophytes are a group of fungi that devour the nail’s protein substance, keratin. Once under the surface of the nail, the infection may also penetrate the nail. These tiny organisms are what cause the nail to thicken, turn yellowish brown in color and sometimes can cause a foul smell. Other symptoms include brittleness and crumbling of the nail or even loosening of the entire nail. In many instances, fungal nail infections are accompanied by a secondary yeast or bacterial infection around the nail plate. In time, the infection can start to cause pain when walking or running and can also spread to other toenails, fingernails, and skin. Our board certified doctor, Philip S. Pinsker, D.P.M. will closely examine your toenail and ask questions about your medical history and your nails. Treatment for fungal nail infections may include a topical or oral medication. A process called debridement may also be used to remove diseased nail matter and anything that has accumulated under the nail. In severe cases, removal of all or part of the nail may be necessary.

Preventing Onychomycosis

Fungal nail infections are transmitted by direct contact with the fungus. A few precautions can greatly reduce your risk of contracting a fungal toenail infection, including:

  • Use shower shoes or flip flops in public places that are damp, such as pools, gym locker rooms, showers, and even in hotel rooms.
  • Don’t share socks or shoes.
  • Properly disinfect home pedicure tools after each use and if you get pedicures at a salon, make sure that all tools and whirlpool tubs are properly sanitized between customers.
  • Keep feet clean and dry and inspect regularly.
  • Since excessive perspiration can make a more hospitable environment in which fungus can thrive, use a good quality foot powder with talc and avoid tight hosiery and socks. Choose socks made of synthetic fiber which wick moisture away from your skin.

If you see signs of a toenail infection or have any questions about irregularities or changes in your toes or feet, make an appointment at our Washington office.

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