Toenail fungal infections might not seem like a big deal at first, but if they aren’t treated, they can lead to major health problems. As summer is in full swing and more people wear shoes with open toes, doctors are warning about the possible risks of ignoring these common diseases.

Onychomycosis is another name for a fungal illness of the toenails. This happens when fungi like dermatophytes, yeasts, or molds get under the nails and make them thicker, misshapen, and change color. Fungus grows well in warm, moist places, like shoes and feet that have been sweating. This is because the disease usually thrives in warm, wet places.

Dr. Emily Parker, who is an expert on feet and ankles, says, “Toenail fungal infections may seem like a small problem at first, but if they aren’t treated, they can lead to bigger problems in the long run.” Many people, unfortunately, ignore the warning signs in the hope that the problem will go away.

One of the main risks of not treating a toenail fungal infection is that the illness could spread to other nails or other parts of the body. When the fungus gets into the skin, it can also cause athlete’s foot, which causes the skin between the toes to itch, turn red, and crack.

As the infection gets worse, the toenail may become more fragile and change color, making it more likely to break or crack in a painful way. In rare cases, the whole nail can pull away from the nail bed, leaving the toe vulnerable to secondary bacterial illnesses.

People who already have health problems like diabetes or a weak immune system are also more likely to have major problems. Dr. Parker says, “A toenail fungal infection can be especially scary for diabetic patients because it can lead to foot ulcers or even serious infections that can lead to amputation if they are not treated quickly.”

Even though there are risks, many people use over-the-counter medicines or home remedies, which often only provide short-term relief and don’t treat the fungus problem. Experts say that if you have signs of a toenail fungal infection, you should see a doctor to get a good diagnosis and treatment plan.

There are many ways to treat fungal diseases, from putting lotions on the skin to taking antifungal drugs by mouth. In more serious cases, the affected nail may need to be cut out with surgery.

The following tips from experts can help you avoid getting a toenail fungal infection:

Keep your feet clean and dry, especially after swimming or taking a shower.

Don’t wear wet socks or shoes for long amounts of time, and choose shoes that are comfortable and let air flow.

Always cut your nails in a straight line, but don’t get too close to the skin.

Wear flip-flops or sandals in public bathrooms, locker rooms, and pool areas.

Don’t give your nail clippers, files, or other nail care tools to other people.

In the end, it’s important to understand the risks of ignoring toenail fungal diseases. To avoid problems and keep your feet healthy in general, it is

important to find them early and treat them correctly. “It’s important to see a doctor as soon as you think you might have a” toenail fungal infection so you can get the right treatment and help.

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