Sole Survival … solving your foot problems
Nail fungus, or onychomycosis, is a condition that occurs when a microscopic fungus enters either a fingernail or toenail. Fungal infections occur in toenails more often than in fingernails.
Fungal Infections often cause the end of the nail plate to separate from the nail bed. Debris (white, green, yellow, or black) may build up under the nail plate and discolor the nail bed. The top of the nail or the skin at the base of the nail can also be affected. Toenails are more susceptible to fungal infections because they are confined in a warm, moist environment. These make up approximately 50 percent of all nail disorders and can be difficult to treat. Candida or yeast infections are common in fingernails, especially if the hands are always in water or if the person has diabetes. Anyone can get nail fungus, but infections are more common in people over the age of 60. Nail fungus is especially common in people with diabetes or circulation problems. For people who have diabetes or a weakened immune system, nail fungus can present serious risks.
What Causes Nail Fungus?
Usually, nail fungus occurs when fungus enters the nail through a small trauma (cut or break) in the nail. Nail fungus is not caused by poor hygiene. Nail fungus can be spread from person to person. If you notice an infected nail, don’t pick at it or even trim it, as both of these activities can cause the fungus to spread. It may be hard to determine exactly where or how a fungal infection is obtained. However, a warm, wet place (for example, a locker room) is a good place for a fungus to grow.
What Are the Symptoms of Nail Fungus?
A nail fungus infection can make your nails thick and discolored. Uncommonly, you may feel pain in your toes or fingertips.
How Is Nail Fungus Diagnosed?
Your doctor may be able to tell if you have a nail fungus infection by looking carefully at your nails. He or she may scrape some tissue from your nail and send it to a lab in order to determine for certain what kind of infection you have.
How Is Nail Fungus Treated?
Treatment may include topical creams or oral medications (antifungal drugs), but topical antifungal agents may only help treat very mild cases. Rarely, surgery may be required. Removal of the infected nail can be performed to permit direct application of a topical antifungal. Because the fungus grows slowly, it can be hard to eliminate. Anti-fungal medications are available to combat fungal infections; however, they are strong oral medications that must be taken consistently for months in order to be effective. The medications also have potential side effects to other body organs (especially the liver, skin and/or bone marrow).
To monitor side effects your physician must order periodic blood tests (usually monthly) during treatment. Any of the symptoms (listed below) suggesting organ damage should be reported immediately to your physician.
• Unusual fatigue
• Severe loss of appetite
• Yellow eyes
• Dark urine
• Pale stool
• Skin rashes
• Enlarged lymph glands
• Signs of infection
Unfortunately, anti-fungal creams applied to the nail do not penetrate the nail bed to kill the fungus at its source and are generally ineffective.
Toenail infections are more difficult to treat than fingernail infections because the toenail grows more slowly. In addition, a damp, warm environment of a shoe or boot can encourage fungal growth.
How Can I Prevent Getting Nail Fungus?
- Avoid walking barefoot in public areas, such as locker rooms
- Keep the inside of your shoes dry and change your socks frequently (100% cotton socks are recommended)
- Wear proper fitting shoes (shoes with a wide toe area and ones that don’t press your toes)
- Use absorbent or antifungal powder
In this issue of Spavelous “Now You Are In The Know” we will look at:
- Dry Cracked Heel
- Hammer Toes
- Heel Pain
- Ingrown Toenails
- Perspiration Causes Foot Odor
- Swollen Feet
- Toe Deformities
- Foot Warts