A fungal infection of the toenail is known as onchyomycosis and a fungal infection of the skin of the foot is known as athlete’s foot or tinea pedis. A fungus is a microorganism that thrives in warm, moist environments such as inside your shoes. Fungal infections are more prevalent in warm weather when feet tend to sweat more. A fungal infection can occur anywhere on your body and becomes more common with age.
Fungi commonly attack the feet because shoes and socks provide a warm, moist environment for the fungi to live. Fungi can easily be picked up in public pools, gyms, locker rooms and other damp areas. The infection can be spread from person to person, especially between family members. Nail fungus can often begin as athlete’s foot. The infection can spread through a tiny crack in the nail or begin under the nail fold and spread from there. The infection can also spread from one toe to another or to other parts of the body.
Some risk factors include abnormal pH level of the skin, failure to dry feet thoroughly, a compromised immune system (such as diabetic patients).
If you think you have a fungal infection, see your foot doctor. Anti-fungal powders and sprays are commonly used to treat athlete’s foot, your doctor may prescribe a medicated nail polish for fungal nails or oral anti-fungal medication for serious cases – be sure to follow your doctors instructions carefully with any medication. The podiatrist may choose to remove as much of the nail as possible to remove infection. In severe cases surgical (though a short in-office procedure) removal of the nail may be recommended.
It is not easy to treat nail fungus, so it is a good idea to try to prevent it. Avoid going barefoot and keep your feet clean and dry. If your feet sweat a lot, you should change your socks during the day. It will help to use sandals in public showers and pool areas. Avoid sharing shoes, socks and towels – especially with someone who has a fungal infection. Remember to wash your feet thoroughly and dry them thoroughly every time they get wet including between the toes.