Fungal organisms thrive in warm, moist places such as health club locker rooms and school gym showers. Nail salons that don’t maintain sanitary conditions during manicures and pedicures can spread them, too. Once the organism gets under your toenails, it has found a warm, moist home in which to thrive. The stubborn infection that results can be difficult to clear.
Nail fungus infection is one of the few foot problems that affect more men than women, perhaps because more men walk barefoot in locker rooms. Age is a factor, too. Half the sufferers are people older than 70.
Some people view toenail fungus as a cosmetic problem and ignore it. If one person in the family has it, however, it can spread to other members who may not be as accepting of the idea of having infected toenails.
Signs and Symptoms
Affected toenails become thicker and appear to be chalky yellow or white. Sometimes the area around the nail itches. Trimming your thickening nails can become difficult. If the nails get too thick, wearing shoes can become uncomfortable.
When to Call the Doctor
This is not an easy condition to cure, so rather than trying home treatment with over-the-counter medications, it’s best to see your doctor. As with many conditions, nail fungus infections are easier to treat if you catch them early.
How to Treat It
The doctor will trim your nails and scale away the dead layers and may prescribe a topical medication. If the fungal infection is very far advanced, the topical medication won't be able to penetrate the thickened nail. In these cases, you can take prescription oral medications. These are very effective but must be taken for several months.
Don’t go barefoot in locker rooms and around swimming pools. If you have a pedicure, make sure the nail salon uses sterilized instruments or take your own.
Nail Salon Safety
Professional pedicures can transmit infections if not performed properly. Make sure the salon you go to meets the following standards.
- Maintains clean, sanitary conditions
- Is licensed and displays the licenses—with photo ID—of each operator
- Uses cleaned or single-use implements for each customer
- Uses small brushes to prevent nail polish and other products from coming in contact with skin
*Source: American Orthopaedic Foot & Ankle Society® http://www.aofas.org