Published May 27, 2008
No one likes looking at fungus – least of all when it’s growing on a person’s foot.
With sandal season upon us – and fungus breeds in hot, moist areas – it’s time to talk about the prevention and treatment of foot and toenail fungus.
“Fungus is an opportunistic organism – it’s all over the place in the summer,” said Dr. Suzanne Levine, a board-certified podiatric surgeon based in New York City. “It’s there when we are playing sports, in the showers, on the beaches, especially if we are perspiring. It loves moisture.”
According to the Mayo Clinic, symptoms of a fungal infection within the foot include:
— Thickened toenails
— Brittle, crumbly toenails
— Discolored toenails
— Itchy, scratchy skin
— Blistering skin
— Toe pain and/or a slightly foul odor
Fungal infections can begin in the nail or the skin, Levine said and then spread to other. If it starts in the nail, it can stem from an infection or trauma, and lead to a more dangerous condition, such as cellulitis.
Also, fungal infections are can be easily spread among family members, she said.
Levine offered these tips to avoiding fungal infections and achieving summer-ready feet:
1. Never walk barefoot in a locker room, steam room or public shower
2. If you are going for a pedicure, make sure the whirlpool tub is thoroughly cleaned with bleach and the tools are disinfected
3. Consider bringing your own bleach and tools to the salon
4. If you constantly wear nail polish, give your toenails a break and let them breathe for a week
5. Use a moisturizing agent around your toenail cuticles, but avoid cutting the cuticles
6. Treat yourself to a foot facial, or microdermabrasion, which will rid the skin of fissures, cracks and/or dry heels; but it should be done with under the supervision of a health care provider
If you already have a fungal infection, Levine said it is imperative to treat the condition aggressively.
“There are all kinds of products on the market,” she said. “Start with a topical agent like urea cream, but you might want to see a doctor if those don’t work because you may need oral medication, in which case blood tests will be needed to monitor your liver enzymes.”