Toenail care comes low on the priority list for most people. However, when a nail starts to discolour and cause pain, it suddenly gets the attention it deserves. Curing a toenail infection is more difficult than preventing an infection from starting in the first place.
Kinds of Infections
The two common types of nail infections are caused by candida or dermatophyte fungi. Those caused by candida discolour and thicken the nail and usually affect the fingernails. Dermatophyte is generally painless, but changes the nail colour. At the initial stage of infection, the nail has a white, opaque appearance; but as the infection becomes more embedded the nail changes to brown or black.
Heading Off Infections
Prevention starts with keeping your feet clean and dry. After showering or swimming, always dry your feet, especially in between the toes. Clean, dry socks (cotton is a better choice than nylon) and shoes are essential.
At the first sign of a nail infection, clean the nail, removing any nail polish. Apply tea tree oil drops directly to the nail bed twice daily. Because nail polish and remover contain strong chemicals that can damage weak and infected nails or re-aggravate the infection, refrain from using them until the infection has healed.
Use clean pedicure tools when cleaning and trimming nails. If the nail is infected, discard emery boards and orange sticks used in pedicures, and be sure to wash and disinfect nail scissors or metal implements.
Nail infections can be sucessfully treated when caught in the initial stages. However, chronic infections need professional medical care. Prevention is the key to avoiding painful toe problems. When you take care of your toenails, your feet will be a pleasure to walk on.
Infections Can Develop in Several Ways
- A toe or nail injury can trigger an infection, as can athlete’s foot.
- Moist environments, such as damp running shoes or waterproof boots, are ideal infection breeding grounds as are swimming pools.
- Borrowing shoes from a person with a nail infection or receiving a pedicure using contaminated tools can also put you at risk.