FOOT ADVICE: Once fungus gets into the nail bed, it is very hard to get rid of it, but is some ways to avoid it.
FOOT ADVICE: Once fungus gets into the nail bed, it is very hard to get rid of it, but is some ways to avoid it. AlexRaths

Top toe tips for healthy nails

ALL TOO often toe nails are infected by fungus bought on by either damage to your nails or from not taking good care of your feet.

"Fungus is everywhere," warns dermatologist Professor Rodney Sinclair. "You can't eradicate it from the environment." And he says, once the fungus is in the nail bed, it is very hard to get rid of it.

One of the easiest ways for a fungal infection to occur is if a toe nail is injured. There is a seal between the skin and right up to the tip of a toe nail. If the nail is injured and the seal is broken, then the fungus can get it.

It's other, and more common starting point, is from tinea which happens in the space between the toes. Keeping the area around your toe nails clean and free of tinea is a first step to avoiding fungal infections. But, if you see the infection spreading to the toe nails, then you shouldn't delay in getting it treated.

"People infect their nails from themselves; from their own tinea pedis," Professor Sinclair reminds us. "You don't pick up the infection until you pick it up in the skin. From there is spreads to the nail. If you manage your skin properly, you can reduce the risk of a nail infection."

Treatment choices

  • Often the first place to get help is the podiatrist who can regularly cut your toenails. "If they are too long and you go walking with unclipped nails, you will injure them," Professor Sinclair said.
  • There are a few topical treatments available, but only one that really works - Canesten Fungal Nail Treatment Set. It's a two-step process of firstly dissolving the nail and then secondly treating the infection in the nail bed. The product is available across the counter at pharmacies.

What you can do to avoid fungal infections

  • After a shower, dry between your toenails.
  • Check for tinea between each toe cleft. This is where you can catch the tinea from a shower. In time the infection can spread to your toe nails.
  • If the skin around your nails stays in tack, then an infection will struggle to into the nail bed.
  • It's rare for a fungal infection to occur in a finger nail.

Do you get acrylic nails?

Professor Sinclair recommends you use a hygienic place when you are getting an acrylic cover on your nails.

Abnormal gait

If you have arthritis in the feet bones, a bunion or your foot posture has changed, it's likely that how your toe nails interact with the roof of your shoes will be affected. With these conditions, a visit to your podiatrist is recommended.

Getting help

If your podiatrist is only clipping your nails, but not addressing any fungal problem, then you need to talk to your GP about treatment options.