What Happens If You Leave Toenail Fungus Untreated?

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In this guide, you’ll know what happens if You leave Toenail Fungus untreated. As toenail fungus is typically harmless and not painful, most people tend to ignore the condition and defer seeking treatment. Nevertheless, continuing to disregard the innocuous fungal infection could lead to grave health hazards. Left untreated the toenail fungus may become extremely sour and painful, ultimately causing permanent and irreversible nail damage.

Toenail Fungus: Symptoms and Causes

 Some common signs and symptoms of toenail fungus include: –

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  • Abnormal nail thickening
  • Discoloration
  • Brittleness
  • Redness and swelling
  • Malodorous nail

Though different fungi cause nail fungus, the fungus largely responsible for causing the infection is dermatophyte. Several types of molds, bacteria, and yeast are also behind the fungal infection.

Factors That Increases Risk of Developing Onychomycosis

Onychomycosis

Though everyone is liable to develop toenail fungus, the condition mostly affects aged people, particularly individuals more than 6o years. You’re more susceptible to contracting toenail fungus if:-

  • You’ve diabetes or any other medical condition that weakens your immune system
  • You have a skin disease like psoriasis
  • Have a slight nail or skin damage or injury
  • Peripheral vascular disease (resulting in poor blood circulation)
  • Hyperhidrosis (a sweating disorder)
  • Tinea Pedis (Athlete’s Foot)
  • You walk barefoot in locker rooms, pool areas, and gyms
  • You’re over 60
  • You wear narrow, tight-fitting, and old shoes

Ignoring Toenail Fungus Could Lead to Grave Health Issues

Besides permanent nail damage, onychomycosis could also cause other graver infections that may extend well beyond your toenail and feet.

1. Permanent Loss of Toenails

Individuals afflicted with toenail fungus that do not seek treatment, are most likely to lose their infected nails for good. The affected toenail, in the long run, separates and splits from the nail bed, and eventually, the separated part has to be detached. The diseased toenail, in any case, needs to be separated if the infection cannot be treated using conservative methods.

Permanent removal of the toenail annihilates the regenerative center at the nail base, implying that the nail never grows back.

2. Pervasive Contamination

People with a weaker immune system owing to diabetes or poor nutrition are more vulnerable to suffering from toenail fungus complications. Fungal infection from the toenail can easily contaminate the adjoining skin, making it rupture, thereby allowing bacteria to infest and swarm. One common skin ailment caused by toenail fungus is cellulitis, a harmful skin disease, that greatly affects underlying skin layers.

Cellulitis apart from affecting the second skin layer called the dermis also affects the subcutaneous tissue, forming the skin’s deepest layer. The typical signs and symptoms of cellulitis include tender, reddened and distended skin. If you do not seek treatment for cellulitis, the contagion can overrun your bloodstream, and eventually endanger your life. 

Seek immediate medical intervention if you’re infected with cellulitis and your doctor will prescribe an antibiotics course.

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3. The Expansion of the Toenail Fungus

If you leave your toenail fungus untreated, there’s a good possibility that the infection could expand to the adjacent skin. When the fungal infection spreads over the neighboring dermal area, the resulting contamination is known as Athlete’s Foot. Athlete’s Foot, medically known as tinea pedis, is another fungal infection, affecting the feet, typified by inflamed, ruptured, scratchy skin.

There’s the likelihood of the fungus affecting your genitals (medical term-jock itch). Jock itch is a medical condition affecting the buttocks, inside of the thighs, and the groin, and is prevalent in both sexes. The chances of your toenail fungus easily and quickly spreading to contiguous areas increase if you tend to wear socks and shoes.

Warm, humid, and dark environments are ideal conditions for toenail fungus to spread and thrive, like all other types of fungal infections.

4. Foot Pain  

In due course, the untreated contaminated toenail will tend to swell up and become distorted and dense, causing pain and discomfort. Eventually, the pain may spread to other toes, heel, sole, arch, and other areas of the affected foot. You’ll experience stiffening pain while putting on your shoes as well as during walking.

Related: How to Stop Your Feet From Hurting At Work?

Onychomycosis Treatment

If your toenail fungal infection is mild, you may not require treatment. Your physician will determine the degree of contamination by inspecting the nail’s thickness, the severity of the pain, and the extent of discoloration. The doctor may prescribe topical unguents such as ciclopirox or amorolfine in case your infection is not very advanced or severe.

However, bear in mind that you may need to use these topical ointments for a long time owing to the protracted treatment period. Another reason why it takes so long for the infected toenail to heal is the limited penetration rate of the salve inside the nail plate. On the other hand, if your toenail contamination is severer then your healthcare provider will recommend oral antifungal or antimycotic medications.

Preventing Toenail Fungus

Abiding by the following tips will help keep athlete’s foot and toenail fungus at bay, and also check reinfections:-

  • Discarding synthetic nails and nail polish
  • Doing away with the use of old and worn-out shoes
  • Always wearing shoes made of soft, comfortable, and breathable materials
  • Treating footwear you currently use with antifungal powders or sanitizers
  • Ensuring to wear moisture-wicking and breathable socks before putting on shoes
  • Washing used socks regularly and always wearing fresh and clean socks before putting on shoes

A few tips have been enumerated in the next paragraph.

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Your healthcare provider will recommend you wash your limbs every day and keep your toenails dry and clean. Always make sure you cleanse your hand thoroughly every time you touch the contaminated toenail. Allow the infected nail to dry up completely, and apply an antifungal or antimycotic foot talcum powder.

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Your doctor may also suggest using a nail hardener not only to protect the nail from further damage but also to resist breakage. Wearing breathable open-toed flip-flops or slippers in locker rooms and pool areas will protect the nails from infection sources. For instance, slipping inside ProPlantar™ Plantar Fasciitis Slippers will not only guard your toes and toenails but also prevent reinfection.

The Proplantar™ Slippers are very soft making them remarkably comfortable to wear while the 4cm thick sole keeps your feet protected. Another versatile product from Proplantar.com is the Plantar Fasciitis Night Splint Sock which not only keeps your toes covered but prevents them from trawling on the floor.

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