Learn about six of the latest trends in health care and the leading Valley doctors who perform them
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Two new steps to healthy feet
Toe fungus: It’s ugly. It’s unhealthy. “And it’s so prevalent that about 30 million people in the U.S. have it,” says podiatrist Dr. Tracey Toback, D.P.M. The common condition causes the toenail — most often on the big toe — to become hard, brittle, and yellowish. “It’s embarrassing, too. People often try to keep their toes covered up all the time, women may keep applying polish to try to hide it,” he says.
But foot fungus isn’t just a cosmetic issue. “If a person has diabetes, which can affect circulation, they may already have foot problems, and any kind of infection such as this can make matters worse,” he says.
Why is toe fungus so widespread? “The number one reason is because athlete’s foot is so common; the fungus first gets on the skin, then spreads under the nails,” Toback says. Athlete’s foot is frequently found in moist places like gym shower areas and locker rooms — and is quite contagious.
Second, folks tend to torture their tootsies. “People damage the nails, especially on the big toe,” says Toback, a board-certified foot surgeon whose main office is in Highland. “They wear tight shoes. They accidentally drop things on their toes; they kick things with their toes.” All this causes the nail to lift slightly off the nail bed. “Then fungus can get in underneath and start spreading,” he explains.
The most common antifungal treatments available today are topical creams and pills. “Creams often soften the nail, but don’t usually really get rid of the problem. And pills need to be taken under supervision; some can adversely affect the liver,” says Toback.