Maybe you already have a bad case of fungal toenails. Or maybe you don’t … at least not quite yet. (Sorry to be a downer.)
Either way, winter can be a make-or-break season when it comes to maintaining or restoring clear, healthy nails free from fungal infection.
What do we mean by that? Really, it comes down to two things.
- One, wintertime tends to be the riskiest season of the year as far as contracting toenail fungus is concerned.
- Two, if you don’t get existing fungal toenails treated by mid-winter at the very latest, you can probably forget about having clear nails ready to go by the time sandal weather returns.
This means winter is a time to be extra vigilant, and also a time to take action.
Why Are Fungal Toenail Infections So Common in Winter?
The fungi that cause you to contract this condition love things that are wet—particularly skin, nails, and shoes. A little heat is a big plus, too.
That’s a constant problem in wintertime, for reasons you can probably see. If you’re constantly trudging through snow and slush in shoes that aren’t the most waterproof, chances are your feet and your shoes are going to get wet.
But even fully waterproof boots can get damp on the inside due to retained heat and sweat, especially if you wear them all day long. Plus, wearing constricting footwear all day can lead to minor irritations, injuries, and trauma to the nails—not necessarily enough that you notice it, but enough for an enterprising colony of fungi to get underneath and establish a new home.
Wet skin also makes it easier for an existing skin infection, such as athlete’s foot, to spread down to the toes. (That’s right; the exact same kinds of fungi that cause athlete’s foot, as well as jock itch and ringworm, also cause fungal toenails.)
Here are some ways you can reduce your risk of contracting fungal toenails this winter:
- Change socks and shoes throughout the day as necessary if they become wet.
- Treat your shoes with antifungal powders or sprays, or other disinfectants.
- Give your shoes at least a day to fully dry out before you wear them again. (You’ll need to rotate pairs to achieve this.)
- Wash your hands and feet at least once per day. Moisturize your skin and nails afterward.
Why Do I Need to Treat My Toenail Fungus NOW?
The short answer is that fungal toenails can take much, much longer to fully clear up aesthetically than fungal infections of just the skin, for a couple of important reasons.
The first is that (at least until recently) it was much harder to actually eliminate an infection that’s being protected by a nail. Topical antifungals work really well for athlete’s foot, for example, but they are almost useless against nail fungus.
(Laser therapy has since made getting rid of toenail fungus much faster, safer, and simpler, but it’s still a more drawn-out process than simply buying a tube of foot cream and using it for a couple of weeks.)
The second (and more important) factor is that, even once the fungi have been eradicated, much of the damage they’ve done will be left behind. The nail should clear up at least partially within a month or two, but serious thickening, any warping or distortion, and some dislocation will remain.
You’ll have to wait for the damaged portions of the nail to grow out, replaced with new nail grown in fungus-free conditions, to get your healthy-looking nails back completely. Because nails grow so slowly, this process can take many months.
In other words, if you wait until late winter or spring, you’ll basically have no chance at a full recovery by the time the sandals are already back in the closet for next winter.
Taking a Shortcut to Aesthetic Improvement
For those who don’t want to wait several months for nails they feel comfortable showing off, we do have one more trick up our sleeve—KeryFlex.
This is an aesthetic procedure in which we thin out and prepare your misshapen and discolored fungal toenail, then bond it to a custom shaped and cured medical-grade resin nail.
Unlike cheap fake nails (which, among other things, can trap moisture and actually make your infection worse), KeryFlex nails breathe, move, look, and feel like a natural toenail. You can even paint them!
Friendly reminder here: KeryFlex is an aesthetic procedure only. The results last for about two months on average, but if you aren’t getting medical treatment at the same time, the fungal toenail isn’t going to go away.
Fortunately, KeryFlex will not affect the effectiveness of medical treatments (including laser therapy) positively or negatively, so if you want your toes to look great while you wait for the damaged parts of your natural nail to grow away, you do have a really amazing option.
Don’t Let a Fungal Nail Infection Ruin Your Winter (and Spring, and Summer …)
Instead, take steps now to either prevent or treat fungal nails, so your feet will be looking their best by the time summer rolls back around!
To schedule an appointment with Dr. Lockwood here at Heartland Foot & Ankle Associates, please give us a call today at (309) 661-9975.