Get Serious about Toenail Fungus If You Have Diabetes

Robert G. Parker
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Dr. Parker is a podiatrist and surgeon in Houston, TX who has been helping patients for more than 40 years.

Toenail fungusWhen you’re heading out of Houston on I-10 or I-69, you have the advantage of traffic all moving in the same direction—at least when you aren’t stuck in a rush hour traffic jam! Other streets around town have two-way traffic, which adds a level of complexity to your commute. There is a two-way relationship between toenail fungus and diabetes that can add a layer of complexity to your foot health as well. Diabetic patients can’t ignore fungal nails without risking some serious issues.

If you have diabetes, research indicates you may have a higher risk for developing this unattractive nail problem. The disease often reduces blood circulation and compromises your immune system. The white blood cells that help you fight off infections don’t reach your toes as well, so they can’t destroy the microscopic fungi to keep the condition in check.

Even more concerning, though, is the effect toenail fungus can have on your diabetic feet. The discolored, crumbling nails can be traps for bacteria and lead to secondary infections. As the nails thicken, they can cause odd friction points in your shoes and lead to blisters as well.

You likely know that skin wounds and infections are serious issues if you have diabetes. The circulation problems we discussed add another complication—damage to the nerves in your feet. Neuropathy can make you unable to feel when you have a blister or painful infection, and if you don’t notice it—you don’t get treatment for it.

The results of untreated foot ulcers can be serious infections that cause the wound tissue to become gangrenous. The dead tissue cannot be regenerated, so it has to be removed or it will spread to the rest of your foot, or to your circulatory or skeletal systems. Non-healing wounds that develop gangrene are the leading cause of amputations in diabetic patients

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