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5 Things to Know About Toenail Fungus

Worried you might have toenail fungus? Here are some clues to help identify the condition, and helpful tips to aid in treatment.

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The facts about toenail fungus

Onychomycosis, more commonly known as toenail fungus, can be picked up pretty much anywhere you walk barefoot. If you’re worried your own feet may be afflicted, here are some key things to know.

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1. It isn’t pretty

Aesthetics are a common reason sufferers seek treatment. “People don’t like the way it looks,” says Brad Sonnema, a podiatric physician in Edmonton. Fungus grows inside or under the nail, causing it to thicken, crumble or turn yellow.

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2. Age and illness are risk factors

People with poor circulation or compromised immunity are at greater risk, as are older people. At least 50 per cent of North American seniors have fungus in at least one toenail. “Their defence mechanisms may not be as strong,” says Sonnema. “But most of the time, it’s just the result of a lifetime of use and abuse.” A damaged nail is more prone to developing fungus.

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3. Diabetes can be an added danger

Those with diabetes are around twice as likely to have the condition. In these patients, misshapen toenails from untreated fungus can irritate the skin, leading to sores and infection; toenail removal may even be necessary. For most people, though, the fungus stays isolated to the nail and surrounding skin, and it rarely causes internal issues.

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4. Consult a professional

Even if symptoms suggest you’ve picked up toenail fungus, it’s important to turn to a doctor for diagnosis and treatment options—and to avoid ignoring a condition with similar symptoms, like psoriasis.

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5. Consider different treatments

Discuss your options with your doctor: some think all onychomycosis infections should be addressed, while others consider treatment a patient’s choice if their case is minor. Oral anti-fungal medications can negatively affect the liver, which may inhibit the effectiveness of other prescriptions. Topical treatments are safer and must be applied diligently, sometimes for many months.

Originally Published in Reader's Digest Canada