Toenail fungus is a common and persistent condition that affects about 14% of the population. Although it might seem like a minor concern, toenail fungus can lead to serious health complications and diminish your overall quality of life if left untreated.
Ijeoma C Nwuju, DPM, and the dedicated podiatry team at Foot and Ankle Wellness Center in Washington, DC, are dedicated to ensuring your foot health. Today, we emphasize the importance of promptly treating toenail fungus.
What is toenail fungus?
Toenail fungus is a common infection of the toenail that occurs when fungi get between your toenail and the tissue right below it through a crack or cut in your toe. Nail fungus starts as a yellow or white spot under the tip of the nail, and, as the infection goes deeper, the nail may thicken and become cracked or fragile.
Potential complications of toenail fungus
Since toenail fungus isn’t usually painful at first, having a yellowed or discolored toenail may seem like an insignificant cosmetic issue. But ignoring a toenail infected with fungus can lead to a variety of health consequences, including:
Nail fungus causes thickened and distorted nails that increase the likelihood of developing nails that burrow into the skin. Ingrown toenails are often painful and may require medical attention if they become infected.
Untreated toenail fungus can lead to athlete’s foot or cellulitis; the latter is a painful infection of the skin that may spread rapidly if not treated promptly. Nail fungus also increases the risk of secondary infections, as the cracked or damaged nails provide an entry point for bacteria.
Spread infection to others
Toenail fungus is highly contagious. It can start in one of your toenails and spread to your other toenails, and you can transmit it to family members or anyone else who walks barefoot in locker rooms and around the pool.
Pain and discomfort
Left untreated, toenail fungus eventually causes pain and discomfort. The fungus can make wearing shoes or walking challenging.
People with diabetes are more likely to develop foot complications, such as slow-healing ulcers that can lead to lower-limb amputation.
How to prevent toenail fungus
Preventing toenail fungus is always better than treating it. Follow these steps to keep your feet healthy:
- Wash and dry your feet regularly
- Wear breathable footwear to reduce moisture build-up
- Use antifungal powder in your shoes
- Wear sandals or flip flops in public pool areas, locker rooms, and public showers
While prevention strategies can help reduce your risk of developing a fungal infection, because it’s so contagious, you may still become infected by touching an infected surface or through direct contact with someone who has toenail fungus.
Toenail fungus treatment options
Dr. Nwuju and the team offer fungal nail therapy and laser therapy to eliminate toenail fungus. Therapy may include antifungal medications, in oral or a nail polish form; medicated nail cream; or Keryflex® to repair damaged nails.
If you continue to experience toenail fungal infections after treatment, Dr. Nwuju may recommend surgery to remove the nail and the underlying bed to prevent the infection from returning.
Toenail fungus may start as a cosmetic concern, but its potential to cause discomfort, pain, and even serious health risks shouldn’t be underestimated. Don't let toenail fungus go untreated — call the office in Washington, DC, at 202-968-3403 today to take the first step toward healthier feet.