Toenail fungus, also known as onychomycosis, is a common fungal infection that can affect the nails on the feet and/or hands. According to the Scripps Health Foundation, the condition can be caused by several types of fungi, including dermatophytes and yeasts. The risk of developing toenail fungus may be higher for some due to a variety of factors, including genetics, underlying health conditions such as a weakened immune system, and circulatory problems, says the Mayo Clinic. According to Endocrine Web, people with diabetes may be more susceptible to yeast infections due to increased blood sugar levels. Additionally, people who spend a lot of time in moist environments, such as athletes or swimmers, may be at increased risk for developing the condition.
The infection typically starts as a discolored spot visible under the nail. As the infection progresses, the nail can thicken and turn yellow in color. In some cases, the nail may separate from the nail bed or become deformed. Toenail fungus can also be uncomfortable and may cause pain, especially in severe cases.
People with diabetes or a weakened immune system may be at increased risk for complications from toenail fungus. These complications may include infections, which, if left untreated, can in turn lead to more serious complications in the toes or foot that eventually require amputation, per Healthline. Thickened nails can dig into the skin, causing cuts that can become infected. If you have diabetes, it's always best to visit a doctor immediately after you notice signs of nail fungus. Nerve damage from diabetes might make it harder to detect these cuts, increasing the risk of an infection.
There are several other situations when seeing a doctor about your toenail fungus may be necessary. The Mayo Clinic advises seeing a doctor if bleeding occurs around the nails or if you have difficulty walking. The American Podiatric Medical Association also recommends visiting a doctor if you notice signs of notice thickening, discoloration, or deformity of the toenails. Since the condition is contagious, quick treatment is vital to prevent the fungus from spreading elsewhere on your body, or to others.
According to Harvard Health Publishing, toenail fungus can be stubborn and difficult to eradicate. It may even recur even after successful treatment, says the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. If you have had toenail fungus before and notice it has returned, it's important to see a doctor for an evaluation and to discuss treatment options. Your doctor will typically make a diagnosis based on the appearance of the nail and any symptoms you may be experiencing, explains the American Podiatric Medical Association. In some cases, a sample of the nail may be taken for laboratory testing to confirm the diagnosis.
Treatment for toenail fungus may involve over-the-counter or prescription antifungals. Prescribed treatments may come in the form of pills, creams, or medicated nail polish. In some cases, surgical removal of the nail may be necessary, says the Mayo Clinic. The American Podiatric Medical Association says to prevent toenail fungus, practicing good foot hygiene is important. Additionally, wearing shower shoes in public areas, such as locker rooms or communal showers, is important.
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