Updated: May 24, 2019
Athlete’s foot is an infection that causes the skin on your feet to become itchy and/or crack, often leading to the nails being infected with Onychomycosis. The extent of nail fungus in the public is such that approximately one third of all those with athlete’s foot infection will end up with onychomycosis. This figure is even higher in athletes or those particiating in routine sport. If you're active you have a higher chance of being affected and need to take precautions to avoid issues.
How can nail fungus affect you:
it can be painful with nails becoming brittle, lifting
can cause odour, often associated with athlete’s foot where the infected skin flakes and smells or is itchy
is embarrassing as it is unsightly with discolouration and thickness issues
can spread to other nails and other members of your family or club
can affect surrounding skin.
Areas such as sports locker rooms, showers, swimming pools and gymnasiums are all breeding grounds for the contagious bacteria that is nail fungus. All assisted by wearing damp and warm shoes for prolonged periods of time (which many of us do in the UK climate) to give that cosy environment that is a suitable for development of the fungus.
The feet need to breathe, be given a dry atmosphere and not subjected to routine trauma as is often the case with sports people. Kicking a ball in tight fitting sports shoes, twisting and turning on courts for basketball, tennis, squash, badminton etc. all increase the chances of damage to nails creating a suitable environment for fungal development.
So what can be done to help prevent infection? Simple care makes a great difference, starting with keeping your nails properly trimmed regularly - make sure trimming it carried out straight across the nail, parallel to the toe, don’t cut round following the curve of the toe. Make sure after each exercise activity you wash your feet properly and preferably give them a spray with an anti-fungal product, drying thoroughly, airing them around the house where possible with open footwear. Spraying your shoes once a week and making sure to boil wash your socks or tights once a month is also a great practice to get into to prevent any cross-infection. Your clippers and towels should not be shared with towels washed regularly and clippers boiled routinely.
At the gym or sports club protect your feet by wearing sandals, flip flops or other footwear that can be easily washed down and protect your feet from the bare floors.
Noticing a thickening of the nail, crumbling, colour discolouration (brown, yellow, green), brittleness should be dealt with at the first opportunity to minimise cross-infection
Fix the Feet!
Any treatment takes months to work as the process involves killing the fungus and then keeping it fungal free while the nail grows naturally out, taking with it the damaged nail. The key is to be able to reach the fungus living well under the nail plate and nail matrix, kill it and prevent reinfection. There are 3 basic methods of cure; topical creams/oils/lacquers, oral medication or laser treatment. Laser treatment has a significantly higher success rate than oral or topical , with quick and almost painless treatments. Whichever route chosen the most important factor is aftercare, ensuring good ongoing practices, following the guidelines above when participating in your chosen field of sport.