Published: June 18, 2013
PUEBLO - It highlights a subject most people would rather avoid discussing, especially during sandal season.
Toenail fungus is embarrassing and, well, gross.
The good news? It's preventable and, if you've already got it, highly treatable - with effort.
"Fungus is everyplace," said Pueblo podiatrist Gordon Rheaume. "If you put your foot in the same dark, damp shoe all the time, it's going to get fungus and get onto your foot and possibly spread into your nails."
Rheaume said toenail fungus is a common problem for those who wear the same pair of shoes every day. He cited military members and steel mill workers as examples.
"I can give you the best medicine in the world and clean this up, but if you don't rotate your shoes, it's going to come right back," he said.
Toe fungus is identifiable by its effect on nails: They turn white, sometimes yellow, and become thick and crumbly.
In most cases, treatment isn't complicated. When a patient visits a podiatrist (recommended to make sure other problems aren't present), toenails will be trimmed back and the common recommendation is foot soaking and over-the-counter medications.
"We have them soak their feet a couple of times a week in a weak bleach or vinegar solution," said Rheaume. "You scrub the nails (with a brush) and put topical solutions on them, like Lotrimin or Tinactin."
Oral medications are used as a last resort because of potential side effects, he said.
The main risk from toenail fungus is possible infection if a nail rubs into the skin. Other than that, it's an annoyance that can be corrected - but success is determined by the patient.
"The bad thing is you need to (treat) for six months or a year because nails grow out really slow," said Rheaume. "If you're not going to put forth the effort, don't waste your time, energy and money on it."