What Causes Toenail Fungus and How Can I Get Rid of It?

Unsightly toenails aren’t just an embarrassing condition that causes you to feel self-conscious about anyone else seeing your feet; they’re usually a sign of a fungal infection. If your toenails are crusty, thick, or crumbly, and yellow or brown in color, the problem is beyond cosmetic. Nail fungus, or onychomycosis, is a common condition that can spread from your toenails to your feet as athlete’s foot. 

At New Canaan Podiatry, our board-certified podiatrist, Dr. Jennifer Tauber, offers effective treatment for toenail fungus, right here in our state-of-the-art office in New Canaan, Connecticut. 

If you’re one of the many Americans with a toenail condition, you may be wondering if it’s a fungal infection and what you can do to get rid of it. Dr. Tauber can identify the underlying cause of your toenail fungus and provide expert treatment to get rid of it, so you don’t have to feel embarrassed about your feet anymore. 

Onychomycosis is difficult to resolve at home, so if you suspect you have a case of it, be sure to get it professionally diagnosed and treated as soon as possible.

Dermatophytes: A common cause of toenail fungus

Your toenails are composed of 80% hard keratin and 20% soft keratin. Keratin is also in your skin and hair. Dermatophytes, the fungi that usually cause onychomycosis, feed on keratin to grow and multiply. 

Dermatophytes love warm, moist environments, including:

Onychomycosis is highly contagious, so it’s easy to catch. When dermatophytes find their way to your feet as a result of exposure to sweat, public showers, or steam rooms, the dermatophytes consume the keratin in your nails by breaking it down into smaller particles. The crumbly residue on your infected toenails is actually keratin debris. 

You can also get toenail fungus as a result of being more susceptible to foot problems, especially if you’re diabetic, have circulation problems, or you have a weakened immune system. These other conditions, including chronic skin problems like psoriasis, often lead to toenail fungus if your feet are exposed to it, or you don’t keep your feet cool and dry after swimming or going to the gym. 

Take steps to prevent toenail fungus

Prevent a fungal infection by protecting your feet in public spaces. 

Wear flip-flops or sandals

When you’re in public places, keeping your feet off of a wet floor can reduce your risk of coming in contact with foot fungus that leads to athlete’s foot and toenail fungus. 

Keep ‘em clean and dry

Wash your feet daily and towel them dry thoroughly, and dry your feet — including between your toes — when you get out of the pool, ocean, or shower, or anytime your feet get sweaty. 

Foot powder and clean socks can help

Foot powder on the tops of your toes, in between them, and on the soles of your feet absorbs excess moisture. Always wear clean socks and change them daily, or more often if your feet are prone to sweating.

Trim your toenails short and straight 

Keeping your toenails neatly trimmed short and straight across can prevent sharp edges that could injure your nail bed or become ingrown, making your toes more susceptible to fungal infections. Always disinfect your nail clippers after each use, since fungus spreads easily, and only receive pedicures from reputable nail salons that disinfect their tools between customers.

Wear breathable footwear

Breathable, natural footwear and socks may also help reduce your risk of onychomycosis. Be sure your shoes aren’t too tight. Give your toes plenty of space to move around and stay dry. 

Toenail fungus requires professional treatment 

If you suspect you have toenail fungus, don’t wait to seek professional treatment. Dr. Tauber takes a whole-person approach to treating your toenails, so you may need oral antifungal medications as well as medicated nail polish or prescription creams to clear up the infection.

Additionally, she may recommend laser nail treatments with the Fotona ClearSteps™ system, or a combination of treatments that are best for your particular type of onychomycosis.

If your nails are crusted with keratin debris, Dr. Tauber can remove it so your toenails look better. If your infection is severe, she may recommend toenail surgery to temporarily remove the infected nail and treat the nail bed topically. 

Take the first step toward putting your best, fungus-free foot forward by calling our office at 203-548-7688, or booking an appointment online today. 

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