Finding out that you have toenail fungus can be pretty disheartening; toenail fungus is notoriously difficult to treat, and easily spreads from person to person. However, there's no reason to be distraught. If you follow the dos and don'ts below, living with toenail fungus is not the nightmare that many think it to be.
Do: Seek an Official Diagnosis
Many people see yellow, flaky nails and instantly diagnose themselves with toenail fungus. But while a fungal infection causes most cases of yellow, flaked nails, there are exceptions. Sometimes, psoriasis or a bacterial infection can cause very similar symptoms.
To make sure you take the best course of action, have a podiatrist look at your nails and officially diagnose you. They can do so with a simple, painless lab test.
Don't: Assume Oral Medications Are Your Only Option
Oral antifungal drugs for toenail fungus are not appropriate for everyone. They can cause side effects like a skin rash and liver damage, so your doctor will not recommend them if you have a history disease or various other ailments. However, you should not put treatment aside entirely if you cannot or do not wish to take oral drugs for toenail fungus.
There are other prescription treatments to explore, from medicated nail polishes to medicated nail creams. Your podiatrist can discuss each option with you and help you choose one that will be safe and effective.
Do: Practice Good Foot Hygiene
Regardless of which treatment you choose, it will be more effective if paired with good foot hygiene. Wash your feet every day with gentle soap and water. When you are done washing, dry your feet very well, and leave them bare so they can breathe for a while.
Wear clean socks each day, and launder your socks in bleach water to kill any fungus. Carry extra socks with you so that if your feet get sweaty during the day, you can change them.
Most fungi, including those that cause toenail fungus, breed more quickly in a moist, warm environment. If you keep your feet dry, cool, and clean, you'll give the treatment a better chance to get ahead of the fungi.
Don't: Go Barefoot in Public Places
Take others' health into account, and do your best to avoid spreading the toenail fungus. Never go barefoot in showers or on the mats at the gym. Wear flip flops or other sandals, and sanitize them often. If you live with other people, consider also wearing sandals in your own shower. Alternatively, bleach the floor of the shower after each use to avoid spreading the fungus to your housemates.
Do: Sanitize Your Clippers and Other Tools
Sanitize your nail clippers, nail files, and any other instruments you use on your nails after every use. You can either dip them in bleach water or rubbing alcohol and then let them air dry completely. Otherwise, you will just re-introduce fungi to your toenails each time you trim them.
Don't: Wear Shoes That Are Too Snug
Look for shoes that contain breathable material and that allow some space around your toes. This will help keep your toes dry and cool. Leather shoes work well for many people as long as they fit well. Mesh athletic shoes are also a good choice; just avoid them on wet days when water may leak in through the mesh.
You may need to move up a width to give your feet more room in your shoes. For instance, if you have been wearing B-width shoes, consider buying C-width shoes from now on.
Toenail fungus can be annoying to live with and treat, but with the tips above, you'll be headed in the right direction. Contact InStride Family Foot & Ankle Center to schedule an appointment with a podiatrist, and go forward from there.