Toe the Line (Foot Health)

Get ready for summer ” feet first.

One of the best things about summer is being able to wear open shoes like thongs or sandals. But if you’ve got gnarly toes, wearing summer shoes can mean a lot of embarrassment and discomfort.

One of the most common foot problems is fungal nail infection. This can be caused by knocking your toe, trimming your nails too short or wearing tight shoes. Fungal nail infection can be contagious.

The infection occurs when fungus spreads underneath the toenail. This can happen through a broken, closely cut or ingrown toenail, and causes damage to the nail and surrounding skin.

Some of the symptoms of fungal nail infection include discoloured (yellow, brown or white), thickened, brittle or crumbling nails, as well as pain and discomfort. The nail can also become detached from the nail bed and the surrounding skin can become infected.

Fungal nail infection affects one in 10 Australians and about 30 percent of Australians over the age of 60. It’s almost twice as common in men as women and people with diabetes have a greater risk of infection.

The infection is often picked up in communal areas where people walk in bare feet and the conditions are warm and moist, such as public showers and pools. The infection is also easily spread in school and workplace change rooms, and by sharing shoes, socks and towels.

But you needn’t fret ” the condition is easily treated. There are a number of treatment options, including tablets which attack the fungus and topical creams or lacquers applied directly on the nail. If you think you might have a fungal nail infection, it’s important to see your doctor.

To reduce your chances of developing a fungal nail infection you should:

  • Treat any tinea that develops between your toes or on the soles of your feet ” this infection can spread to your toenails;
  • Keep your nails cut short and clean but be careful not to cut your nails too short;
  • Wear thongs or sandals in public areas like showers and change rooms;
  • Wash your feet daily, rinsing and drying thoroughly ” especially between your toes;
  • Change socks or stockings daily;
  • Wear shoes that fit well and have good ventilation; and
  • Change your shoes regularly and allow them to dry out.

For more information on fungal nail infection, head to

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