The toenail fungal infection is one of the most stubborn dermatological conditions out there, requiring long-term treatment and an excellent hygiene. The Internet is filled with information on how this condition can be treated but, unfortunately, not everything you find online can be perceived as believable. In this article, you will find some of the most common myths about toenail fungus, along with the reality version.
#1 Myth: The toenail fungal infection may be unsightly but it is harmless
When a toenail is affected by a fungal infection, its appearance is going to change. It is a known fact that infected toenails change their color, becoming yellow or white, as well as their texture. The more severe the infection is, the higher the risk of nails becoming brittle or crumbling. In such a situation, it is only normal you would want to hide your feet. But, you also need to get yourself treated, as this is not a harmless infection. In fact, if you immune system is weak, such an infection can leave you pray to more serious infections, some of them potentially life-threatening.
#2 Myth: Nail polish can be used to prevent toenail fungal infections
Unfortunately, this is only a myth, as nail polish does not have the ability of preventing toenail fungal infections. On the contrary, nail polish can trap moisture, creating a favorable environment, in which the fungus will grow and thrive. It is a known fact that fungal microorganisms love places that are warm, dark and moist, so you need to avoid wearing nail polish very often, as well as fake nails. Always dry your feet really well, in order to reduce excess moisture and use foot powder to absorb excess sweat.
#3 Myth: You do not have to go to the doctor to get rid of toenail fungus
One of the biggest mistakes that people make is taking the information they read or hear from friends for granted. You will often read or hear that you can take care of the toenail fungal infection on your own, without having to go to the doctor. Instead, you can resort to over-the-counter solutions or use home remedies.
While these can be efficient in some cases, it is not always the case. It is possible that you suffer from a more serious toenail fungal infection, with a visit to the dermatologist representing the only valid solution. The doctor can assess the state of your nails, as well as determine whether the surrounding tissues are also infected. He/she can recommend a suitable intervention plan, comprising of topical products, oral medication and additional procedures, such as laser therapy, surgical ablation or removal. Only the doctor has the capacity to determine the best course of treatment for such an infection.
#4 Myth: You cannot catch such an infection from other people
In reality, the toenail fungal infection is highly contagious and can thus be contracted from other people. This is especially valid if you are sharing objects of personal hygiene, such as towels. The level of contagiousness is just as high, in the situation that you visit public places, such as swimming pools, locker rooms or gyms. The floor is a perfect breeding environment for fungi, especially when moisture is involved. Avoid sharing objects of personal hygiene with other people, do not walk barefoot in public places and, whenever you are getting a pedicure, ask for a new set of tools to be opened in front of you.
#5 Myth: Toenail fungal infections can be treated with antibiotics
This is a common misconception, with many people who suffer from such infections visiting the doctor and asking for antibiotic treatment. Toenail fungus can be treated with antifungal medication, whether topical or oral, but not with antibiotics, as these are meant for bacterial infections. In recommending a particular antifungal treatment, the doctor will take into consideration pre-existing conditions, such as liver disease. He/she will also monitor your health status from a close distance, as antifungal medication is known to cause a number of side-effects.
#6 Myth: Fungal infections affect fingernails in an equal percentage
This is only a myth, as toenail fungal infections are far more common than the ones present at the level of the fingernails. This is because fingernails are kept in the open air more often, staying dry and thus protected against such kind of infections. On the other hand, the toes are often kept inside the shoes, in a dark and moist environment, which the fungus loves. Add to that ill-fitting footwear and you have the perfect scenario for a toenail fungal infection.
#7 Myth: Thick & discolored toenails are clearly infected with fungus
While it is possible that a fungal infection causes the toenails to become thick and discolored, it is important to understand that other diagnoses are also on the list. The doctor will never base his/her diagnosis, solely on the assessment of the affected toenail(s). In order to confirm the presence of the fungal infection, he/she will scrape the respective toenail(s) or perform a nail clipping (sample taking). The samples will be sent to a laboratory, which will confirm the presence of the fungus (or of another pathological microorganism).
#8 Myth: Excellent hygiene prevents the appearance of toenail fungal infections
It cannot be denied that, by maintaining excellent hygiene of the feet, you are preventing the toenail fungus from appearing. However, this is only true to a certain extent. In reality, toenail fungus can be diagnosed in those who maintain excellent hygiene but present other favoring factors, such as recent injuries, damage at the level of the nail bed or pre-existing conditions, as diabetes or any other condition affecting the immune system.
Word of advice
When reading about toenail fungus, do not believe just any piece of information you come across. Instead, perform a thorough research and verify the respective information, from at least three sources. When you visit the doctor, make sure to ask him/her all the questions you want, as he/she is best qualified to clarify matters.
Amy is a foot massage therapist that has worked with doctors specializing in podiatry while helping numerous clients through various foot conditions. She has reviewed 100s of related foot health products for plantar fasciitis, toenail fungus and more.