You may have heard of foot fungus, but assumed that this disease couldn’t possibly affect you. After all, you’ve probably never seen anything growing on your toes or sprouting from your soles. However, foot fungus is actually much more common than you might suppose. According to a recent study, up to 18 percent of all people suffer from toenail fungus, and this condition is just one of many potential fungal infections that could affect your feet.
At Dr. Jeffery LaMour’s Austin podiatry practice, we regularly help patients with foot fungus. These infections can be uncomfortable, embarrassing, and unhealthy. The good news is that, in large part, foot fungus is easily avoidable if you simply know what it is and what to look out for. That’s why we’ve dedicated this week’s blog to going over foot fungus facts. Read on to learn more about the two most common types, their causes, and our treatment options.
Before we dive into foot fungus, you should first understand what exactly a fungus is, and how it can affect your body. When you think of fungi, you might imagine mushrooms and spores. You’re not wrong! Medline Plus points out: “A fungus is a primitive organism. Mushrooms, mold, and mildew are examples. Fungi live in air, in soil, on plants, and in water.” While many are external to and separate from us, “some [fungi] live in the human body” but “only about half of all types of fungi are harmful.” So, how can you become host to fungi? Medline Plus explains: “some fungi reproduce through tiny spores in the air. You can inhale the spores or they can land on you. As a result, fungal infections often start in the lungs or on the skin. You are more likely to get a fungal infection if you have a weakened immune system or take antibiotics,” since your body would be weaker and less able to fight off the spores in these situations.
For certain kinds of fungi, your feet are the ideal environment. Spores take up residence on your moist, warm skin, growing on top of and into your skin. You can help ward off foot fungus by keeping your feet as clean and dry as possible, avoiding going barefoot in public areas that could be contaminated with fungus, and using a preventive anti-fungal topical treatment on your feet.
One of the most typical forms of foot fungus is onychomycosis, or toenail fungus. In this case, fungal spores invade the area beneath and around your toenail, where they cause it to take on a green, yellow, or black color, cause it to crumble, and, in some cases, split the nail with their growth. Toenail fungus can be quite uncomfortable, as the fungus puts undue pressure on your toenails, making it difficult to clean your feet, wear shoes, or even walk.
Fortunately, at Dr. LaMour’s office, we have a simple, state-of-the-art solution for toenail fungus: our Pinpointe™ FootLaser™. Using an intense beam of light, we kill the fungi that have infected your toenail without damaging the nail or surrounding tissue. In as short a time as two months, you can begin growing healthy nails again.
If you think only jocks suffer from this condition, think again: athlete’s foot is one of the most widespread fungal infections. As WebMD explains, this infection, “also called tinea pedis…causes peeling, redness, itching, burning, and sometimes blisters and sores.” These uncomfortable symptoms can interfere with your daily life and, unfortunately, leave your feet more vulnerable to other infections (fungal, bacterial, and viral). There are several spores that cause athlete’s foot, but they tend to “[live] on dead tissue of the hair, toenails, and outer skin layers.” In addition, this form of fungus “grows best in a warm, moist environment such as shoes, socks, swimming pools, locker rooms, and the floors of public showers,” which is where “athlete’s foot” gets its name. To avoid the athlete’s foot, you should take caution not to walk barefoot in these circumstances.
If you do find yourself with symptoms of athlete’s foot, Dr. LaMour can diagnose and treat this condition. Typically, we prescribe appropriate anti-fungal medications, suggest soothing topical ointments to help with itching and swelling, recommend soaking your feet for sweating caused by the fungus, and advise more rigorous foot hygiene.
Are You Suffering from Foot Fungus?
While toenail fungus and athlete’s foot are two of the most prevalent conditions, there are dozens of fungi that can infect your feet. If you notice any changes to your foot color, texture, smell, or any other aspect, we recommend you come and see Dr. LaMour as soon as possible. The earlier we catch the fungal infection, the easier it will be to treat. Contact our Austin podiatry practice today to schedule your appointment!