Ingrown toenails are due to the penetration of the edges of the nail plate into the soft tissue of the toe. It begins with a painful irritation that often becomes infected. With bacterial invasion, the nail margin becomes red and swollen often demonstrating drainage or pus. For people who have diabetes or poor circulation this relatively minor problem can be become quite severe. In this instance a simple ingrown toenail can result in gangrene of the toe. Patients with joint replacements or pace makers are at risk of bacterial spread through the blood stream resulting in the spread of infection to these sites. These patients should seek medical attention at the earliest sign of an ingrown toenail. There are several causes of ingrown toenails: a hereditary tendency to form ingrown toenails, improperly cutting the toenails either too short or cutting into the side of the nail and ill-fitting shoes can cause them.
The fungus that infects the toenails is the same type of fungus that causes athletes foot. Generally it starts at the tip of the toenail and works its way back into the toenail and nail bed. The fungus lives in the bed of the toenail and feeds on the keratin in the toenail. In the early stages of the infection it is primarily a cosmetic problem or concern but as the infection progresses the toenails continue to discolor, thicken and become painful. A foul odor often accompanies the infection. Ingrown toenails are a frequent consequence of fungal toenails.
Fungal toenails are not just a problem for athletes. The infection is contagious and can be acquired in any number of locations such as areas around public swimming pools, gyms and community showers. Sweaty feet can contribute to the initial infective process and contribute to its spread. Dry scaling skin of the feet is often associated with the infection indicating a chronic athletes foot condition.
Toenail fungus is an infective process and fungal elements that shed from the toenails inhabit your socks, shoes, bed sheets and showers. Although not considered highly contagious certain precautions are recommended. Successful treatment with long-term results is best obtained by addressing your immediate exposure and environment. A common sense approach includes drying your feet thoroughly following bathing, change your socks daily and more frequently if you have a problem with sweaty feet. Use a disinfectant at least weekly in the bathing area. There is no need to discard your shoes. We recommend a topical antifungal shoe spray or powder or the use of a shoe-sterilizer Steri-Shoe . The Steri-shoe is effective in eliminating microorganisms that cause toenail fungus, athletes foot and foot odor.
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