Tuesday, September 5, 2017

Toe Fungus Among Us


“Saints preserve us,” said Mrs. Jervis, there’s fungus among us.” Somewhat of an alarmist, Mrs. Jervis also proclaimed, “There’s malaria in the area.” So went an old comedy routine.

Mrs. Jervis may have been wrong about malaria, but likely right about toe fungus. There’s a lot of it.

She didn’t say, no one would say, “TGIF…thank goodness, it’s fungus!”


Toe fungus is not very funny. It’s ugly and can lead to other infections.

It doesn’t take much to make feet ugly. Our feet are rarely our most attractive feature. Feet are rarely as attractive as faces. Note that the Internet has FaceBook but no FeetsBook.

We note “the joy of victory and the tragedy of da feet.”

Toes are often unattractive, and fungus can make them ugly.

Toe fungus comes in three stages, ranging from nearly invisible damage in the nail in Stage 1 to truly ugly discoloring, thickening, and warping of the toenail in Stage 3. 

My toe fungal colony has achieved Stage 3. Oh, do I have ugly big toe toenails! Discolored, misshaped, fungus-infected, these babies I do not show in public. Yellow, brittle, deformed nails…argh!

And, I am not alone.

Most adults in our country have similar fungal infections. Once you get infected, you tend to stay infected. The fungus victims accumulate.
The infections are not painful, but they occasionally can lead to infection by other organisms that are more detrimental to health and welfare. The toes are still useful, a comedian would say they are not a toe-tal loss.


How do we get them? From other people, from the water on the floors in shared bathing areas.


How do you prevent them? Wash and dry your feet often, try to keep them dry. Use flip-flops or shoes in public showers.

Dry your feet and put them in clean, dry footwear.


Why do they persist? They love warm, moist, dark areas…like our toes in our shoes.


Cures? No good ones.
     Soaking feet for five minutes per day in 50/50 vinegar/water. It kills some, bleaches some. It is boring, but beneficial. What’s not boring, however, is what happens if, as I did, you add bleach to this mixture, releasing chlorine gas that can be deadly. I did this one morning. Fortunately, I noticed a strange feeling right away in my nose and throat and threw that solution out.

-        Toenail polish is a cover-up that does not stop the nail thickening and warping. I am not a toenail polish kind of guy, however.

-        Lotions, creams, ointments are not very effective either [show bottle]. I’ve used religiously three different anti-fungal concoctions over the past decade or so. I’m not certain they helped, though perhaps they get partial credit for keeping elephants out of our home.

-        Pills are claimed to be more effective, but with more serious side effects. Think of those advertised acne cures that clear your skin but might kill you. I’m not interested. Yet.

-        Lasers are being studied, but the jury is out. Lasers are high-tech. Even hot lasers are cool. Their effectiveness in dispute.

-        Podiatrists will do some cutting and some grinding. For me, Medicare foots most of the bill. I wish mine would get a toe truck and make house calls.

Why do I tell you about this? You are likely to become infected. You will want to be alert. You will want to start treatment earlier than I did. You may not want to make the mistake I describe next. Then again, maybe you will.


One morning recently, my mind was on other things, and I was treating my toes after a shower and a boring five-minute soak with vinegar and water. Two little bottles with applicators were on my desktop: Terpenicol prescription lotion for my toes and Wite-Out correction fluid for my prose. Without my glasses, I reached for my prescription topical ointment bottle and started to put the white liquid on with the little brush, when I realized that I had mistakenly picked up the bottle of Wite-Out correction fluid on the table and was applying it to my right big toe. It looked surprisingly good. I covered the nail.

It has been a month since this treatment mistake. I have returned to my former routine, using the prescription lotion, not the correction fluid. Eventually, the correction fluid coating wore off, but I think this right big toe treated with correction fluid looks better than the left one, conventionally treated.


Perhaps I’ll apply for a patent.

Furthermore, I decided to tell the story at Toastmasters.

Maybe I’ll even become…a Toes-Master!


At least I wasn’t like the guy who was so poor at dressing himself, he had to write “TGIF” on his shoes. His “TGIF” stood for “Toes Go in First.”

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