Fungal Infections of the Foot and Toenail
In a normal and healthy state fungus and bacteria can live quite happily on the skin causing no problems at all, however, some forms of these bugs or high quantities develop and fungal infections can occur.
Types of Fungal InfectionFungal organisms live off a substance called keratin that is found in the skin, therefore this is normally where fungal disorders develop and thrive.There are many different forms of fungal infections, but those affecting the foot or nail are usually confined to either athlete’s foot (tinea pedia), or an infection of the nail (onycomycosis).
Athlete’s FootAthlete’s foot is a highly contagious condition that seems more apparent in teenagers and young adults, though numbers are difficult to determine as many people live with the condition without knowing or treating it.It is caused by fungal growths found between the toes or on the bottom of the feet and can be passed on through direct or indirect contact.
Signs and symptoms often include itching between the toes often accompanied by red irritated skin, which can develop into broken skin or blisters as the itch is being dealt with.To prevent cross infection the foot should not be allowed to come into contact with others and should be protected until the condition has been treated. Towels and shoes should not be shared and socks should be changed frequently to prevent the fungus from multiplying further.
It can be treated using anti-fungal preparations bought from the chemist or often found in supermarkets. These treatments may be in the form of a powder, cream or spray; allowing a good choice for the affected individual.
Athlete’s foot can be prevented by ensuring the feet are kept clean and that thorough drying of the feet and toes occurs, preventing a warm and moist area for the germs to breed.Footwear should be changed everyday to allow the feet to breath and socks should be changed often if perspiration is the cause of the fungus collecting on the feet.
Nail InfectionsFungal nail infections are often caused by an untreated fungal skin infection, such as athlete’s foot. The fungus spreads to the nail and can grow underneath the nail where it continues to multiply.These infections are also more commonly seen in those with other conditions such as diabetes, heart or vascular disease when the circulation to the feet can become depleted. They are also more likely to develop in those who live in hot or humid climates when the feet do not have a chance to cool.
Affecting just one or all of the nails, and can be spread very easily to the fingernails, these infections often present as a discolouration of the nail accompanied by a thickening of the nail, which can become dry and flaky.The nail may lift and the surrounding skin can become red and inflamed as this occurs.
Treatments vary for this type of infection, often none are needed for mild infections, or by simply treating the athlete’s foot that caused the infection is enough. Some may benefit from taking anti-fungal medications often in a tablet form and some people may even require surgery to remove the nail if the infection is causing high levels of pain or the infection is particularly advanced.
Keeping nails clean, dry and short is often enough to keep infections at bay, though if athlete’s foot is present, this should be treated to prevent further infection developing.
Good hygiene practices and keeping the feet cool and dry are often enough to prevent fungal infections from occurring, but if they do develop, early treatment is recommended to prevent deterioration or spread of the infection.