What is nail fungus?
Nail fungus accounts for half of all nail problems. An estimated 35 million Americans may have the disease, which is progressive and recurring. It rarely occurs in children, but nail fungus is increasingly common as we age.
Fungal infection of the nail can often be ignored, as the infection may be present for years without any symptoms. Nail fungus can occur in your fingernails and toenails, causing discoloration, thickening and softening of the nails. If you suffer from nail fungus, it can be a difficult condition to treat. You need to see us to prevent permanent damage or possible nail loss.
What are the causes?
Your risk of developing a fungal infection is increased by tight, enclosed footwear, prolonged moist skin, and minor skin or nail injuries. If you have ingrown nails nails whose corners dig into soft tissue – a common nail impairment that can lead to irritation, redness, swelling and infection.
Factors that may increase the development of nail fungus include humidity, heat trauma and underlying athlete’s foot. If you suffer from chronic diseases such as diabetes mellitus, circulatory problems or immunodeficiency conditions, you are especially prone to fungal nails.
Are there different types of nail fungus?
Our human bodies are host to a variety of microorganisms, including bacteria and fungi. While some of these are useful, others may multiply rapidly and form infections, Fungi can live on the dead tissues of your hair, nails, and outer skin layers.
Are you at risk for nail fungus?
Fungal nail infections are most often seen in adults. Toenails are affected more often than fingernails. If you walk barefoot around damp areas including swimming pools, gyms or showers, you are more vulnerable. If you perspire a great deal you may develop mold-like infections, because the fungi that cause them thrive in warm, moist areas.
What are the symptoms?
Other than appearance, nail fungus has few symptoms. While unlikely, nail fungus may cause pain, limit your mobility and interfere with manual dexterity. You may experience swelling, redness or pus drainage from infected areas.
You may see changes in your nails with nail fungus:
· Discolored surface (yellow-brown)
· Distorted nail shape
· Lack of luster
· Crumbling and disintegration of nail plate
· White discoloration on the surface or under the nail
· Loose or detached nail
How is a diagnosis made?
After we examine your nails, we confirm the diagnosis by scraping the nail for a culture and examining the scraping under a microscope to determine if your infection is bacterial or a type other than fungal. Antifungal treatment will be unsuccessful if there is another root cause for your nail condition. If you are diagnosed with a fungal nail condition, be aware that fungal organisms may be difficult to eliminate and they may return in your skin or nails.
How is nail fungus treated?
Topical creams and ointments available without prescription are seldom effective. In our care, you’ll receive prescription medications, including oral medications (e.g., Sporanox or Lamisil) that you may need to use for several months. Eventually, your fungal nail infection will be cured by the growth of new non-infected nails. Even with successful treatment, you may have a recurrence.
Complications: If you delay or discontinue treatment, you may experience permanent damage to the nails, secondary skin infections, and recurrent fungal infections of the nails or other parts of the body.
For certain patients, fungal infections present increased complications:
· Your risk increases if you have diabetes, neuropathy, or peripheral vascular disease.
· Your risk increases if you have a compromised immune system due to Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome (AIDS) virus, chemotherapy treatment, of if you have had organ or bone marrow transplantation.
· Your risk increases if you are over age 60, have impaired circulation and/or diabetes.
Nail fungus prevention tips
Bathe feet daily in lukewarm water using a mild soap. Moisturize to keep the skin supple. Trim or file your toenails straight across.
Wear socks, pantyhose or stockings correctly sized and free of holes, seams and other possible irritants. These act as a cushion between your feet and shoes, and should be changed frequently and washed after each use.
Choose properly fitted shoes to prevent serious foot problems. Never wear handed-down shoes.
Shop for shoes in the afternoon as feet tend to swell during the day.A shoe with a firm sale and soft upper is best for most daily activities. Measure both your feet, and if you have two different sized feet, shoes should fit the larger foot.
Walking is the best exercise for your feet. Daily exercise is recognized as a positive health practice that can prevent disease and prolong life. For foot health, be careful to select the right shoe for a particular activity.
Practice foot safety by wearing protective footwear in public places, e.g., gyms, spas, swimming pools, patios and showers. Wear flip-flops or pool shoes in public areas to avoid picking up an infection.
Keep fingernails healthy. Wear protective gloves when you’re gardening or washing dishes. Cut nails straight across and avoid using artificial nails or nail polish.
For optimal skin health, we suggest you visit us regularly to monitor and treat your nail fungus and other skin conditions. Early diagnosis is important in treating skin problems.