(ABC) -It's an ugly problem many people don't want to talk about…nail fungus.
While it may not be at the top of your list of health concerns…it will be if it affects you. It's a common yet embarrassing problem many people experience.
"Nail fungus is caused by dermatophytes. Those are fungi that affect the skin and nail. And fungi are found everywhere. It's ubiquitous, which means it's everywhere in the environment," said Dr. Dale Ulett, a podiatric surgeon.
Nail fungus is contagious, and causes visual changes in the nail.
"You'll see thickening of the nails, the nail will discolor…it'll be yellow or black. Sometimes the nail will loosen, it lifts up from the nail bed...sometimes they'll have pain because the nail thickens and discolors," explained Dr. Ulett.
Even though anyone can get a nail fungus, Dr. Ulett says athletes, elderly patients and diabetics are at higher risk. But the good news is it's treatable.
"Option number one, which I typically tell patients is topical anti-fungi and they have to do that daily for a year. The second option is oral medicine; the patient will take that daily for three months and you'll see changes 60 percent of the time. And one of the new treatments, which is the most effective one, is the laser treatment and that we see effective changes about 85-87 percent of the time," Dr. Ulett explained.
As for prevention, don't go bare foot in public, try not to get professional pedicures, change your socks and shoes daily. And if your feet sweat a lot, you can use anti-fungal powder or spray.
In other health news, March is Colon Cancer Awareness Month and the Cancer Centers of Southwest Oklahoma in Lawton, Duncan and Altus are offering free colon cancer screening kits through the end of the month. Visit any of the three locations to pick yours up or inquire about all of your screening options.