Your feet are tough, carrying the weight of your body through each day. It may be surprising to learn that a microscopic organism called a dermatophyte can affect this robust part of your body. A type of mold fungus, dermatophytes are the reason behind many cases of nail fungus, an infection that changes the composition of your toenails.
General and aesthetic podiatrist Francine Rhinehart, DPM, specializes in treating nail fungus infections at her practice in the Oak Cliff neighborhood of Dallas. In fact, toenail fungus is one of the most common reasons that people see podiatrists. About 10% of Americans overall will experience a nail fungus infection, with that number climbing to 50% for those aged 70 and older.
Your feet naturally carry a population of fungi that persist even with ideal hygiene, and you can acquire others from common surfaces that support fungal growth.
Most types of fungus generally thrive in warm, dark, and moist environments. In the case of the dermatophytes that affect your feet, the protein keratin is an ideal source of energy. Your nails are loaded with keratin. When dermatophytes penetrate beneath the surface of a toenail, they can grow unabated when conditions are right.
You’re more at risk of developing a fungal infection when you experience any of the following conditions:
Wearing closed-toed shoes for long hours can enhance the warm, moist environment for existing fungi, while frequent use of public showers or swimming pools could expose you to new sources of fungus.
Toenail fungus is very contagious, and it spreads easily when people touch infected surfaces. A common fungus is athlete's foot, which spreads through barefoot contact with contaminated surfaces in places like locker rooms, swimming pool decks, or public places where shoes aren’t usually worn.
Nail salons are another place where you may encounter dermatophytes. Ask about their sanitizing procedures, since a fungus could be transferred from clippers, files, and other tools that aren’t sufficiently sterilized.
If someone in your home has a fungal infection, you have an increased risk of contracting it, too.
If you’re regularly exposed to high-risk environments for foot fungus, take extra care to protect your feet. While there are treatments for fungal infections, these conditions can be notoriously difficult to eradicate.
Over-the-counter solutions usually aren’t very effective, so a visit to Dr. Rhinehart is your best option when nail fungus takes hold. Your best option is avoiding an initial infection. Keep your nails fungus-free by following these suggestions:
While you can reduce your risk of developing a fungal infection, you likely won’t be able to eliminate it. However, if you do get an infection, Dr. Rhinehart can help. She offers treatments with the Q-Clear™ laser system, a platform that’s particularly effective against nail fungus.
To discuss additional ways to protect yourself or get treatment, call 214-216-6538 or book an appointment online with the practice of Francine Rhinehart, DPM, today.