Pedi-Cures: Protecting the Skin You Walk In

Healthy Nails and Footcare

Treatment Tough as Nails

When fungal infections affect the nails of the foot, they can cause the toenail to separate from the nail bed, allowing white, green, yellow or black debris to build up under the nail.

Fungal infections in the nail can be difficult to treat. Oral anti-fungal medications are only "fairly effective," according to Levine, working between 50 and 75 percent of the time.

With another common nail disorder, an ingrown toenail, the nail grows into the toe's skin, causing the toe to become infected and sore.

To treat an ingrown toenail at home, you can soak your foot in warm, soapy water several times a day. In some cases, you may have to gently lift the edge of the nail from its embedded position and put some cotton or waxed dental floss between the nail and skin, changing the packing daily.

In more severe cases, a doctor may prescribe antibiotics or perform a surgical procedure to permanently remove part of the toenail.

You can prevent ingrown toenails in the first place by not cutting your toenails too short, especially on the sides of the big toes. And of course, avoid wearing shoes that are too small.

Extra Foot Caution for Diabetics

Small wounds, as minor as a blister from a too-tight shoe, can cause diabetics to develop serious health problems, in some cases even requiring amputation. Even if a foot problem wouldn't be cause for alarm in nondiabetics, those with the disease should see a doctor right away if they notice even a slight injury to their foot.

For everyone else, most foot problems can be easily treated, and in many cases even avoided in the first place with common-sense steps that don't require someone to, in Levine's words, "tiptoe through life."