Tips for avoiding fungal nail infections

A fungal nail infection affects the keratin that makes up the nail. It is caused by a build-up of fungi that naturally resides on your foot, and symptoms can range from cosmetic to pain inducing, depending on the stage of infection. If caught late, fungal nail infections can be persistent, in some cases taking a year or longer to fully remove with some treatments or may lead to losing the nail. As such, it’s best to avoid getting fungal nail infection, usually involving hygiene best practices

What is Fungal Nail Infection

Fungal Nail infection is an affliction of the nails on your feet, that can lead to symptoms of thickened nail as well as discoloration (the nail can turn white, black or yellow). This discoloration can often be the earliest noticeable sign, and is too often ignored. 
A fungal nail infection is usually painless at first, and in most cases won't cause any further complications. But if the infection isn't treated, it may cause pain and discomfort or may lead to loss of the nail. Fungal nail infections can affect part or all of the nail, including the nail plate, nail bed and root of the nail. In instances where pain results, it can eventually make wearing shoes, or walking, difficult. In later stages, the nail could become brittle, and pieces of the nail may break off, or the nail could separate entirely.

Knowing the Cause

Understanding what could trigger fungal nail infections could help you to avoid contracting fungal nail in future. Essentially, a buildup of dermatophyte fungi on your feet (that normally resides around the skin between your toes) leads to fungal nail. As such, the cause is essentially what causes the fungi to build up into an infection. Risk factors include:

  • Humid environments such as swimming pools, and communal showers
  • Damaged skin or nails, such as broken skin
  • Poor health, or certain health conditions like diabetes
  • Wearing shoes that cause your feet to get hot and sweaty
  • Wearing the same socks and shoes on sequential days without breaks
  • Poor foot hygiene, and avoiding washing feet or insoles or socks

Taking care of your feet is ultimately the best way to avoid a fungal nail infection, but there may be some issues that occur that could lead to fungal nail (such as a cut on your foot) that could potentially cause fungal nail infections.

Avoiding Fungal Nail Infection

Avoiding fungal nail can be easy to do, just keep these general tips in mind:

  • Look for the early signs such as small discolorations on the nail, which could potentially be the beginnings of infection
  • Keep your feet cool and dry, and wear shoes and socks that allow your feet to breathe
  • Wear clean cotton socks daily
  • Try to keep your feet covered when out and about, but sandals or slippers may be a good choice of footwear inside, as they allow your feet the chance to keep cool
  • Clip your nails frequently, and make sure to keep them short
  • Wear shower shoes or sandals when using a communal shower, for instance in a changing room at the gym
  • Consider replacing old footwear frequently, and don’t wear the same pair of shoes for more than two days in a row

If you do pick up an infection, or believe you have done so, speak to a GP to find out what you can do.

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