Fungal infections in the toenails

Fungal infections in the toenails are very common, difficult to treat and they often recur. They are also called ringworm of the nail and are caused by a fungal infection similar to that which causes athlete's foot.

This condition can occur just in the nail, or it can spread to the toenail from a general foot infection. The fist obvious symptoms include a whitish (sometimes also darker colours) discolouration of the nail. The nail may also appear to be separating from the nail bed. The nail becomes thicker, and if left untreated, may actually be destroyed.

People most at risk include sportspeople, people who wear tackies, those whose jobs require them to wear rubber footwear and people who live a warm and humid climate. Doctors or podiatrists diagnose this condition by taking a scrape for microscopic examination.

Antifungal tablets or local fungicides are used to treat this condition.

In order to get rid of these fungal infections in one or more of your toenails, the following is advised:

  • It may be a good idea to see a doctor or podiatrist to get a proper diagnosis.
  • To reduce the possibility of the recurrence of fungal infections, always dry your feet properly – even in between the toes, after taking a bath or a shower;
  • Don't walk barefoot in public places, especially showers pools and locker rooms;
  • Never wear nail polish or artificial nails, as these produce ideal conditions in which the fungi can flourish;
  • Wear cotton socks and keep your nails dry, clean and short.

South African Podiatry Association (SAPA)

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