How to Prevent Nail Fungus: Top Tips from a Professional Podiatrist - Paul Miller Podiatry
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How to Prevent Nail Fungus: Top Tips from a Professional Podiatrist

athletes foot nhs

How to Prevent Nail Fungus: Top Tips from a Professional Podiatrist

Nail fungus, medically known as onychomycosis, is a common condition that affects millions of people worldwide. While it may seem harmless at first, nail fungus can lead to discomfort, pain, and even complications if left untreated. Fortunately, there are several proactive steps you can take to prevent nail fungus from developing in the first place.

At Paul Miller Podiatry, expert podiatry in Strood and Sidcup, we are here to help keep you feet and nails healthy.

paul miller foot clinic chiropodist StroodWhat Actually is Foot Fungus?

Foot fungus, also known as fungal infections of the feet or tinea pedis, is a common condition caused by various types of fungi. These fungi thrive in warm, moist environments, making the feet an ideal breeding ground for their growth. There are several types of foot fungus, with the most common being athlete’s foot (tinea pedis) and nail fungus (onychomycosis).

Athlete’s Foot (Tinea Pedis): Athlete’s foot typically affects the skin between the toes, though it can also spread to the soles and sides of the feet. It presents as redness, itching, burning, and scaling of the affected areas. In severe cases, blisters and cracks may develop, leading to pain and discomfort. Athlete’s foot is highly contagious and can spread through direct contact with infected skin or contaminated surfaces.

Nail Fungus (Onychomycosis): Nail fungus affects the nails, causing them to become thickened, discolored, and brittle. The nails may appear yellow, white, or brownish, and they may become distorted or crumbly over time. Nail fungus often starts at the edge or corner of the nail and gradually spreads to involve the entire nail if left untreated. It can be challenging to treat and may require long-term therapy to eradicate completely.

athletes foot nhsBoth types of foot fungus are caused by fungi known as dermatophytes, which feed on keratin, the protein found in skin, hair, and nails. These fungi thrive in warm, moist environments such as sweaty socks and shoes, public swimming pools, and communal shower areas. People with compromised immune systems, diabetes, or poor circulation are at increased risk of developing foot fungus.

Effective treatment of foot fungus typically involves antifungal medications in the form of topical creams, powders, or oral medications. Additionally, practicing good foot hygiene, wearing clean and breathable footwear, and avoiding walking barefoot in public places can help prevent foot fungus and reduce the risk of recurrence.

Understanding what foot fungus is and how it spreads is essential for preventing and managing this common condition effectively. By taking proactive steps to keep your feet clean, dry, and well-protected, you can minimise the risk of developing foot fungus and maintain healthy feet for years to come.

Get in touch with Paul Miller Podiatry today if you are having issues with your feet.

1. Keep Your Feet Clean and Dry | How to Prevent Nail Fungus

One of the most effective ways to prevent nail fungus is to maintain good foot hygiene. Wash your feet daily with soap and water, making sure to dry them thoroughly, especially between the toes. Fungi thrive in warm, moist environments, so keeping your feet clean and dry can help create an inhospitable environment for them to grow. Its estimated that around 3% to 12% of the population has nail fungus, older people are more likely to have it than younger. (Source)

2. Wear Breathable Footwear

Choosing the right footwear is crucial for preventing nail fungus. Opt for shoes made of breathable materials, such as leather or mesh, that allow air circulation around your feet. Avoid wearing tight-fitting shoes or synthetic materials that can trap moisture and promote fungal growth. Additionally, consider wearing moisture-wicking socks to help keep your feet dry throughout the day. Read this blog post by Foot Wear Etc called How Proper Footwear Can Help You Avoid Contracting Athlete’s Foot. You may also find this post useful, The Importance Of Proper Footwear In Preventing Ingrown Toenails. 

3. Practice Proper Nail Care

Trim your nails regularly and keep them clean to reduce the risk of nail fungus. Use clean nail clippers and avoid cutting your nails too short, as this can increase the likelihood of ingrown toenails, which are susceptible to fungal infections. When trimming your nails, cut them straight across and smooth the edges with a nail file to prevent snagging and tearing. Read our blog post Common Nail Disorders In The UK: Understanding Causes, Symptoms, And Treatment to find out more info. 

4. Protect Your Feet in Public Areas

Public places like swimming pools, gyms, and locker rooms are common breeding grounds for fungi. To prevent nail fungus, always wear shower shoes or sandals when walking in these areas to minimize direct contact with contaminated surfaces. Avoid sharing towels, socks, or shoes with others, as this can spread fungal infections from person to person.

5. Avoid Nail Trauma

Trauma to the nails, such as stubbing your toe or dropping heavy objects on your feet, can create openings that allow fungi to enter and infect the nails. To prevent nail fungus, be mindful of activities that may put your nails at risk of injury and take precautions to protect them. Wear protective footwear when engaging in sports or activities that pose a risk of foot trauma, and avoid using your nails as tools to pry or scrape objects.

6. Seek Prompt Treatment for Foot Fungus

If you suspect you have a fungal infection on your nails or feet, don’t wait to seek treatment. Early intervention is key to preventing the spread of nail fungus and minimising damage to the nails. Schedule an appointment with a podiatrist for an accurate diagnosis and personalised treatment plan tailored to your specific needs.

Why are older people more likely to have foot fungus?

Several factors contribute to why older adults are more prone to foot fungus:

  1. Reduced Immune Function: As people age, their immune systems may weaken, making them more susceptible to infections, including fungal ones like nail fungus. A weakened immune response can make it harder for the body to fight off fungal infections effectively.
  2. Decreased Circulation: Aging can lead to decreased circulation in the feet and legs, which can impair the body’s ability to deliver immune cells and nutrients to the affected areas. Poor circulation can create an environment where fungi can thrive, making older adults more vulnerable to foot fungus.
  3. Thicker Nails: As people age, their nails tend to thicken and become more brittle. Thickened nails are more likely to develop small cracks and splits, providing entry points for fungal spores. Additionally, thickened nails can be harder to trim properly, making it easier for fungi to accumulate and grow.
  4. Chronic Health Conditions: Older adults are more likely to have underlying health conditions such as diabetes, peripheral arterial disease (PAD), or psoriasis, which can increase the risk of developing nail fungus. These conditions can compromise the health of the nails and make them more susceptible to fungal infections.
  5. Prolonged Exposure to Fungi: Over a lifetime, older adults may have had more exposure to fungi in public places such as swimming pools, locker rooms, and communal showers. Prolonged exposure increases the likelihood of coming into contact with fungal spores, which can lead to infection over time.
  6. Slower Healing: Aging can slow down the body’s healing processes, including the repair of damaged skin and nails. This slower healing response can prolong the duration of fungal infections and make them more difficult to treat effectively.
  7. Poorer Hygiene Habits: Some older adults may experience mobility issues or cognitive decline, which can make it challenging for them to maintain proper foot hygiene. Neglecting foot care, such as not drying feet thoroughly after bathing or wearing damp socks and shoes, can create an environment conducive to fungal growth.

preventing foot injuries

While aging itself does not cause foot fungus, these factors combined increase the likelihood of older adults developing fungal infections. It’s essential for older individuals to prioritise foot care, maintain good hygiene practices, and seek prompt treatment for any signs of foot fungus to prevent complications and maintain overall foot health.

By following these tips for preventing nail fungus, you can keep your feet healthy and fungus-free. Remember, maintaining good foot hygiene and being proactive about nail care are essential steps in protecting your nails from fungal infections. If you have any concerns or questions about nail fungus prevention, don’t hesitate to reach out to a qualified podiatrist for guidance and support.

How to Prevent Nail Fungus

Get in touch with Paul Miller Podiatry, we have a practice in Strood/Rochester which you can find at Hobourn House, Strood, Priory Rd, Rochester ME2 2BD. As well as in Sidcup, Birkbeck Natural Health Centre 45 Birkbeck Road Sidcup Kent DA14 4DB.

Stay proactive, stay healthy!