By Dr. Donna Barrese
June 27, 2016
Category: treatments
Tags: toenail fungus  

Toenail fungus is a common condition that starts as a yellow or white spot underneath the nail. As it develops, it can cause the nail to thicken, become discolored, dull, misshapen, or crumbly at the edges. Toenail fungus can also cause the nail to detach from the nail bed, and patients with an infection may detect a foul odor from the infection site.


socksFungal infections are usually caused by the dermatophyte fungus, a microscopic organism that thrives in dark, damp environments. Toenails are particularly prone to fungal infections due to regular exposure to the moisture and darkness inside shoes and socks. Also, toes receive less blood flow than hands and fingers, which makes it more difficult for the body’s immune system to ward off an infection in the area.

Older people are more likely to develop toenail fungus since poor blood circulation often occurs with advanced age. People with diabetes, lowered immune function, and other conditions that cause poor circulation are also at higher risk. Additionally, frequent and heavy perspiration and walking barefoot in damp communal areas, like gym showers and swimming pool areas, increase the risk of exposure.

Toenail fungus may or may not cause pain, but the condition can spread, and even if treatment is successful, the patients often experience a return of the infection. A severe fungal infection in the toenail can cause permanent damage to the nail and cause other infections that spread beyond the feet.

If your condition is mild, self-care strategies and over-the-counter anti-fungal medications may help. To help reduce your risk, keep your feet clean and dry and wear moisture-absorbing socks, such as wool or nylon. Wear open-toed shoes whenever possible and discard old shoes that may harbor fungi. Wear flip-flops in any communal showers, locker rooms, and pool areas, and keep your toenails short and dry. If your condition is more severe or causing pain, other treatments are available from the podiatrist, such as nail removal or laser therapy.