Two hands show white discoloration on the nails.

The Connection Between Nail Health and Type 2 Diabetes

People with type 2 diabetes are more likely than those without the condition to acquire fungus of the nail.1

While nail fungus is treatable, it takes a long time to treat, and effective options are limited. If you think that you might have a nail infection, call your doctor for a physical examination.

If it is your toe that is affected, seeing a foot doctor (podiatrist) is also a recommended approach. Some people with diabetes find it helpful to have regular follow-ups with their podiatrist.2

Symptoms of nail fungus

Nail infections due to fungi can present differently depending on the person. Common symptoms include:2

  • White, yellow, or brown discoloration of the nail
  • Weak or brittle nails
  • Change in nail shape
  • Nail detachment from the nail bed
  • White patches

How serious is a fungal nail infection?

While most fungal nail infections are not serious, some people find that the appearance is bothersome. Some also experience pain, especially if the nail becomes separated from the nail bed, prompting them to seek treatment.1

For people with diabetes, having nail fungus can increase the risk of a bacterial skin infection surrounding the nail, which can be serious and may require antibiotic use. For this reason, it is important that people with diabetes get treated for their nail infections.1

What causes nail fungus?

As the name implies, fungal nail infections are caused by fungi. These fungi infect your skin or nails. Many people with toenail fungus also have an infection called athlete's foot. Athlete's foot is a fungal skin infection that typically occurs between the toes. Despite its name, athlete's foot does not just occur in athletes!1,2

Other risk factors for nail fungus include:2

  • Swimming pool and sauna use
  • Tight-fitting shoes
  • Damaged nails
  • Weakened immune system
  • Certain skin conditions, such as psoriasis

How can you prevent nail fungus?

With nail fungus, implementing preventive tactics can make a big difference. Examples of ways to prevent nail fungus include:2

  • Avoid sharing products that touch the foot, such as shoes, socks, and towels.
  • Ensure that your shoes fit properly. Do not wear shoes that are too constrictive.
  • Take off shoes as often as possible, such as when in the home.
  • If using swimming pools and saunas, wear flip-flops to avoid contact with high-exposure areas.
  • Dry feet thoroughly after showering, swimming, or bathing.

Treatments for nail fungus

There are prescription and over-the-counter treatments for nail infections. With all treatments, it is important that they be applied or taken consistently.2

Fungus that infects the nail can be particularly stubborn to treat. Depending on the product and infection severity, it takes up to a year to treat.2

I recommend that people with diabetes speak to their doctor rather than self-treating with over-the-counter medicines.

Prescription treatments include a product similar to nail varnish that is applied nightly. For more resistant infections, an oral tablet can be prescribed instead.2

What has your experience been?

Have you experienced nail fungus since being diagnosed with diabetes? Please share your tips regarding treating and/or preventing this infection below!

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This article represents the opinions, thoughts, and experiences of the author; none of this content has been paid for by any advertiser. The team does not recommend or endorse any products or treatments discussed herein. Learn more about how we maintain editorial integrity here.

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