• Pod Co Podiatry

Attack of the Fungus! How to avoid rotten toenails


Pod Co has seen a lot of rotten toenails come through the doors this summer, more so than usual, so we thought we would give you all a little run-down on what fungal toenail infections are and how to avoid them.


What is it?

Fungus, like bacteria, exists on the surface of our skin as part of the natural flora.  They keep the skin healthy by keeping other more harmful bugs away. However, when the conditions are right, these bacteria and fungi can become prolific and then become one major problem.  In the toenails, a fungal infection can appear as white or yellow/brown spots or patches, which can quickly spread to affect either part of or the entire, nail plate.  When severe, the nail or nails will become thick and crumbly and can sometimes smell. Gross. ​

What is the cause?

It can be hard to pinpoint the exact cause of the infection, however poor foot hygiene is often the common underlying factor.  This includes: 

  • Sweaty feet (hyperhidrosis) 

  • Use of communal showers in places such as gyms and swimming pools

  • Failure to wash and dry the feet thoroughly after showering and following physical activity

  • Spread of an existing skin fungal infection

How do I avoid it?

  • How often have you been for a walk or gone to the gym, arrived home and then pottered about, leaving your sweaty trainers and socks on for an hour or more?

  • How many of you have got into the shower and quickly washed as far as your knees and then jumped out thinking the soap washing over your feet would be enough to clean them?  

  • Let your feet “air dry” after a shower rather than taking the time to dry between and underneath each individual toe?

  • Shared shoes with someone else?

  • Worn socks more than one day? (This is actually more common than you might think!)

If you have done any of those things, you’re inviting a fungus party on either your skin and/or your nails.

Treatment

Treating the nails when infected is hard.  

  • Topical treatments such as Loceryl or Canesten can be bought over-the-counter and all chemists and some supermarkets and are best used when the infection is at the end of the nail or is in a small portion of the nail.  The treatment has to penetrate nails to be able to stop the fungal growth so needs to be used regularly until the nail has grown out completely clear, which may take 8 months or more.  

  • Oral treatment is available from your GP but requires a sample of the nail to be tested before the medication can be prescribed.  And although it is more effective than topical treatment, as with all medications it comes with side effects.

  • Laser has proven to be the most effective treatment but is also very expensive.  It is not yet available for private health fund rebates.

Your best bet is to avoid an infection by keeping your feet as clean and healthy as possible.  Make sure you change your socks regularly, air your feet if they tend to be sweaty, air your shoes or try to wear a different pair every day and don’t wear nail polish for long periods of time!

If you think you might have a fungal infection in your nail, come and see us for advice and treatment.  The earlier you get to it, the easier it will be to treat.