The area of the toes is generally warm and damp, unfortunately making it a great area for fungus to grow. If left untreated, the fungal infection can spread, which is why it’s so important to get professional help early on and look into your treatment options.
Fungal infections occur due to fungus getting through the cracks of the toes or cuts in your skin. Common signs that you may have a fungal infection include thicker than normal toenails, oddly shaped toenails, discoloration, a yellowish hue to the nail, and separation of the nail and nail bed. Fungal infections can affect anyone but are most common among men, those with diabetes or athlete’s foot, and smokers. The risk of having toenail fungus also increases as you age, if another family member has it, and if you have a weaker immune system.
To avoid getting a fungal infection, it’s important that you wash your feet daily with soap and water, making sure to get in between your toes, and dry the feet well. When cutting your toenails, make sure the clippers you’re using are clean and that you’re cutting straight across. It’s also important that you wear shoes in areas where fungus can thrive, such as wet public places like swimming pools or locker rooms.
Ingrown toenails can form when the side of a toenail begins to grow into the flesh surrounding the nail. As a result, the affected toe—most commonly the big toe—may become red, swollen, painful, and—in severe cases—infected.
There are many reasons why an ingrown toenail may develop. Improperly cutting your toenails is a major cause of ingrown toenails. If toenails aren’t cut straight across or are cut too short, the likelihood of getting an ingrown toenail may increase. Other causes include having unusually curved toenails, wearing shoes that don’t give your toes an ample amount of space, and hereditary factors. Injuring the toe by stubbing it or having an object fall on it may also lead to ingrown toenails. If left untreated, an ingrown toenail can lead to further complications with the foot.
If you are someone who has diabetes, it’s extremely important to remain mindful of ingrown toenail prevention, as minor cuts or simple scrapes can lead to serious complications. You can prevent ingrown toenails by ensuring toenails are straight across and at a moderate length, wearing shoes that fit properly, and checking feet daily for signs of foot issues.
Treatment for an ingrown toenail will vary on a case by case basis. One form of treatment requires lifting the ingrown nail and placing a splint or piece of cotton underneath. Another method for a more severe case would involve partially removing the nail. For cases that need extreme care, the nail itself and tissue would have to be removed.
Things to Know
Caring for your toes is an important part of keeping your feet healthy, especially if you are diabetic or have another serious medical condition. To care properly for your toes, practice the following tips on a daily or weekly basis.
- Cut the nails weekly or every other week. Keep your toenails short and clean to avoid infection.
- Use a toenail clipper to cut your toenails. Toenail clippers are specifically designed to cut toenails and will help you avoid injury.
- Wash your feet daily. Keeping your feet clean is an important part of avoiding complications like warts or fungus.
- Cut your toenails straight across and file the edges into a rounded shape. This avoids jagged edges that could get caught and cause ingrown nails.
- Don’t poke, push, or cut your cuticles. Cuticles are a protective layer that keep infection away from your nail bed. It is best to leave them in place.
- Change your socks daily. Wet, warm feet help fungus grow, so keep your feet dry and clean.
- Wear flipflops in public showers or pool areas. It may be tempting to go barefoot, but with bare feet you may expose yourself to fungus or germs that can cause foot problems.
- Wear comfortable shoes. Avoid shoes that pinch, apply too much pressure, or cause blisters.
- Eat a healthy diet to maintain strong nails. A diet that has a variety of fruits, vegetables, and protein can assist in growing strong nails that resist damage.
- Help children care for their feet and toenails. Assist your child in cutting nails and caring for their feet to avoid health problems and infection.
Practicing these simple prevention tips will ensure you reduce the risk of developing foot or toe problems. If you do encounter issues with your toes or feet, schedule an appointment to speak to your doctor who can refer you to a podiatrist as necessary.