For some people the idea of ​​wearing sandals or open-toed shoes at a fancy occasion or when in a warm climate, is something to be avoided at all costs. They feel embarrassment, because they represent the 35-million Americans, or 10 to 15 percent of the population that suffer from toenail fungus. They shy away from showing off feet with crumbly, brittle, toenails that have turned black, yellow or green.

According to the Mayo Clinic, aging is the most common risk factor for toenail fungus and it is more likely to affect men than women, particularly those with a family history of the infection. The organization offers the following reasons why aging is a factor:

  • Diminished blood circulation
  • More years of exposure to fungi
  • Nails may grow more slowly and thicken with age, making them more susceptible to fungi

Toenail fungus sufferers do not need to spend more time hiding their feet. There are solutions. However, it's important to first understand the cause of the infection, the various available treatments, and how to maintain healthy feet to help prevent recurrence infections, because those who get toenail fungus tend to get it over and over again.

Causes of Toenail Fungus

Dermatophytes, a type of fungus that can naturally grow on hair, nails and skin, never pose a problem because they can not penetrate the skin. However, the fungus, Trichophyton rubrum, can feed on keratin, the protein rich portion of the toenails that provides hardness and strength to the nail. This fungus can always invade the body through a tiny cut, blister or an exposed nail bed.

Because toenail fungus is contagious, sharing personal items such as shoes, socks, nail files, nail clippers, shower and locker room floors and carpet may pass on the infection.

In addition, keeping feet cooped up in shoes, also promotes fungal growth. Each human foot sweats up to eight ounces a day. While socks may absorb some sweat, what does not evaporate ends up in our shoes. That combined with shoes' damp, dark environment creates a breeding ground for the fungus and bacteria that can cause toenail fungus as well as athlete's foot and offensive shoe odor. The Mayo Clinic lists “wearing socks and shoes that hinder ventilation and do not absorb perspiration” as a factor that can increase one's chance of developing toenail fungus.

Toenail Fungus Treatments

There are a lot of claims, especially on the Internet, about toenail fungus remedies. Some of these include tea tree oil, foot powders, Vicks Vapor Rub, a shot of apple cider vinegar, or footbaths in vinegar, Listerine, or corn meal and water.

The Mayo Clinic says that over-the-counter antifungal nail creams and ointments are not very effective. The organization does point out that studies have shown that oral medications such as terbinafine (Lamisil) and itraconazole (Sporanox) are “the most effective treatments.”

Medication is typically prescribed for six to twelve weeks, although it could take at least four months for the nail to eliminate toenail fungus when the infected nail completely grows out. Dr. John Sigle of the Foot and Ankle Center in Illinois says, “Terbinafine is effective 60 to 65 percent of the time, with a cure rate of 35 to 40 percent. during treatment. “People with congestive heart failure or liver disease should not take these drugs.”

The fact is there is no quick fix with topical creams, prescription lacquers or oral medications. Each involves a long, tedious process that works less than 50 percent of the time. Buyers should beware because many ads can be misleading and not provide full information about effectiveness and risks.

One of the most promising treatments is laser treatment. Laser technology is FDA-approved to treat toenail fungus. Effectiveness ranges from 60 to 75 percent and the average treatment takes 10 minutes to an hour with up to four sessions required. There are no reported side effects and no medication is required. The cost can range anywhere from $ 600 to $ 1,000. Insurance companies do not cover it, because they deem the procedure “cosmetic.” While laser treatment is expensive, it may be the most effective option.

Maintain Healthy Feet

Maintaining healthy feet is critical to a long-term toenail fungus solution. One of the reasons people get re-infected is due to the fact that they put their feet into their shoes, which harbor organizations that cause infections. A 2012 article in the Journal of the American Podiatric Medical Association stated, “The presence of fungis in the shoes has been postulated as a major reason for reinfection. ”

Think about it. We wash every article of clothing except our shoes. Those who spend hundreds or thousands of dollars on laser treatment and then put their feet into fungus-laded shoes are probably wasting their money and increasing their risk of re-infection.

There is no solution on the market that can prevent re-infection. However, proper foot hygiene and limiting exposure to fungi is the best answer. One way to maintain proper foot health is to sanitize the inside of one's shoes with a shoe sanitizer. Be sure to choose one that is clinically proven and that is recommended by podiatrists. Stepping into a clean shoe will make your feet feel better and help you put your best foot forward.