Fungal Skin (Tinea Pedis) and Nail Infections (Onychomycosis)
Have you noticed your feet getting itchy and red or your toenail changing colour, becoming thick or crumbly? You may have a fungal infection of the feet.
Fungal infections are a very common condition seen in the feet. When it affects the skin, it’s known as tinea pedis and when it’s on your nail, it’s known as onychomycosis.
Fungal infections can be very easy to pick up and diagnose, but tricky to treat. If left untreated it can become painful, spread to other toes and affect the cosmetic appearance of your nail.
What are fungal toenails?
Fungal toenails (onychomycosis) cause the nail to thicken, change colour and become crumbly. Fungal nail infection occurs when the fungus invade the toenail and nail bed. The fungus likes to live on a protein structure known as keratin that helps make up the nail. The fungi interacting with the keratin causes the nail to change in appearance. Fungus thrives in warm, dark and moist environments, so closed shoes can often be the ideal environment for them to grow and survive.
What is tinea pedis?
Tinea pedis (tinea) is a type of fungal infection that most commonly affects the skin on your feet, often appearing between the toes, arch and heels. It can be itchy and cause the skin to become red with tiny little blisters and cause the skin to peel. Tinea occurs in about 20% of the population and about 60% of the elderly population. It is prevalent in warm, humid climates, so the typical place where you may pick up this fungal infection would be public areas such as swimming pools, showers or saunas.
What causes fungal infections on your feet?
Many factors can put you at risk of fungal nail and skin infections, this may include:
- Poor foot hygiene.
- Sweaty feet
- Compromised immune system (e.g. diabetes, illness)
- Poor circulation
- Not wearing socks in shoes
- Prolonged use of nail polish
- Working in a wet environment.
- Barefeet – particularly in communal areas such as swimming pools and showers
- Nail trauma – direct trauma such as stubbing toe or repetitive trauma to toes from shoes
- Occlusive footwear – runners or work boots with steel caps or shoes that cause the feet to sweat
Why do we treat fungal nail and skin infections?
There are a number of reasons why you would seek treatment for fungal skin and nail infections. They are:
- Cosmetic – improve the appearance of the toenail and skin
- Reduce Itch – reduce irritations that tinea infection can cause on the skin
- Reduce Pain – fungal nails can become very thick and crumbly causing pain when you wear your shoes.
- Reduce Worsening Of Infection – avoid the infection worsening and spreading to healthy nails or skin
What are the treatment options for fungal nail and skin infections?
Treatment is often based on the severity of the infection and depends on how far the fungus has affected the nail and skin.
Treatment For Fungal Skin Infection:
Treating fungal infections on your skin (tinea pedis) is often a lot easier compared to treating fungal nail infections. It often involves a combination of applying a topical antifungal cream as well as education regarding footwear, socks and general foot hygiene. Here are some tips for treating tinea pedis:
- Wear socks made from natural fibres and ensure they are changed on a regular basis.
- Wash your feet and keep your feet dry by drying well between your toes.
- Limit time spent barefoot, especially in public areas
- Make sure you are using your own towel
Treatment For Fungal Nails:
Here are treatment options for onychomycosis:
- Apply a topical anti-fungal agent/lacquer onto the affected nail. The success from this treatment will rely on how compliant you are as it may require you to apply the lacquer daily for 12-18 months until the nail grows out.
- The other option for treating fungal nails, particularly those that are more severe is the use of oral anti-fungal medication. This needs to be prescribed by a GP, usually after a positive result from a nail scraping test. This treatment takes approximately 3 months (sometimes longer) to work. Your GP will let you know if this treatment is safe and suitable for you.
Whichever treatment options you decide on taking, it’s important that you seek advice and guidance from a Podiatrist so that you have clarity on how to proceed with your treatments safely and effectively. Fungal nail and skin conditions are one of the most common infections seen in our clinic. At The Footcare Clinic, our podiatrist will assess your skin and nails to determine if you have a fungal infection or not. You’ll be given a detailed treatment plan to follow to achieve your goals of having happy and healthy feet 😊.