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Um, Is That Toenail Fungus?

April 18, 2019

You know the drill; sun’s out, sandals on. And boy does it feel good to slip on those favorite flip-flops and let your feet breathe a little. At least that’s the case until you look down and notice that your feet are a little worse for wear. Sure, you expect a little roughness or maybe a lack of nail polish—after all they’ve been in socks and closed-toed shoes for the last six months—but something doesn’t look quite right.

That’s when you notice a yellowish tinge on one or more of your toes. That couldn’t possibly be fungus, though, right? You wear shoes in public places (namely, gym showers and/or locker rooms), you wash (and dry) your feet regularly and only get pedicures at trustworthy salons. If you practice these helpful hygiene tips, then it likely isn’t fungus.

It may be one of these common culprits instead…

  • Aging: You can add differences in color, thickness and shape of nails to the list of never-ending changes that come along with growing older.
  • Nail polish: If your go-to color for nails is red, orange or yellow, and you leave it on for extended periods of time, then the discoloration may be from your polish.
  • Medical condition(s): Besides fungus, there are several different health conditions that may impact nail health, including an infection, yellow nail syndrome or rheumatoid arthritis.

Or it may be toenail fungus…

Just hearing the word fungus probably makes you want to wash your hands (and feet) as we speak. But, the truth is, we all naturally have fungus in and on our bodies. However, like many other microbes—bacteria in your gut and on your skin—fungi can overgrow, or you may contract a foreign fungus that your body can’t immediately fight off. Either way, the end result is the same: an infection.

What are the signs of a fungal infection?

While you can have a fungal infection many places on the body, the feet—and nails—are one of the most common places; thanks to the warm, moist environment that enclosed shoes offer. In addition to a yellowish tinge, you may notice:

  • Scaling under the nail
  • White or yellow streaking
  • Flaking or crumbling of the nail
  • Thickened nail
  • A loose nail or loss of the nail completely

If it fungus, what does that mean?

First of all, don’t worry. This common condition can be easily treated, but only by working with a health expert. That’s because there are many different types of fungi, so it’s almost impossible for you to identify the type and treat it with over-the-counter products. In addition to scheduling an appointment with a GMG Primary Care provider, here are a few tips to keep at your fingertips:

  • Cut nails short and file down thick areas
  • Don't use the same nail trimmer or file on healthy nails and infected ones
  • If you go to a nail salon, bring your own nail file and trimmer
  • Wear waterproof gloves when washing dishes or floors
  • Wear socks of wicking material to draw moisture from the skin
  • Change your socks when they are damp from sweat or your feet get wet
  • Wear clean, dry socks every day and apply over-the-counter antifungal powder inside socks to keep feet dry
  • Wear shoes with good support and a wide toe area

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