Fungal nail infections are a common problem that can affect the nails of both the hands and feet, but they generally affect toenails the most. The infection is caused by different types of fungi, such as candida – which causes thrush – but it is most often caused by the same type that also causes athlete’s foot, called dermatophyte fungi. Fungal nail infections occur when fungal spores make their way between the toenail and the skin underneath (the nail-bed), and feed off of the skin or the keratin in the nail. A fungal nail infection does not usually come with any physical symptoms, such as the itching found with athlete’s foot, but in some cases it can cause pain and discomfort if it isn’t treated. If a fungal nail infection is left untreated, the nail-bed can be completely eroded over a long period of time. Those who suffer from fungal nail infections find that their nails look and feel thicker, or that they change colour (become pale or yellowish) or that they appear to have separated from the nail bed.
Spotting a Fungal Nail Infection
The following are common signs of fungal nail infection:
- Your nails start to look dull, losing their natural shine.
- The edges of the nail are discolored.
- There are white or yellowish spots in the middle of the nail.
- The nail is thicker or more brittle.
- The nail crumbles and splits, separating from the skin.
- There is discomfort while wearing shoes, walking, or standing for a long time.
It’s important to act quickly if you notice any of these symptoms, as an infection becomes harder to treat over time. Fungal infections may take several years to clear up, in some cases.
How to treat a Fungal Nail Infection
An antifungal treatment may be required to treat an infection, but milder cases can be treated with a specialty fungal nail treatment. It contains hygienic disposable files that are used to remove the top layer of the nail, so that the nail structure below it can be accessible for applying a cream. This is where the fungus resides, and the advanced treatment formula can be applied here to penetrate into the nail in order to inhibit the growth and existence of the fungus. Thus, it is removed completely.
This treatment should be done frequently at the beginning, by filing the nail once a week and applying the liquid or cream formulation once a day. After four weeks, the liquid or cream may be applied once a week for up to 9 months, or until the nail returns to normal. The files can only be used once and should be disposed of after one use to avoid reinfection.
How to Reduce the Risk of a Fungal Nail Infection
Although it might be impossible to avoid fungal nail infections completely, there are some things you can do to reduce the risk. You can avoid humid or damp conditions, starting with your shoes. If you happen to use areas that infected people are using – such as communal showers or swimming pools – you must wear foot protection, such as flip-flops.
Additionally, it is important to take note of any damage to the nail, as this is the gateway for the fungus to enter and proliferate. Apart from going after the fungus, it is important to disinfect your shoes regularly by using a disinfecting shoe spray.
Moreover, if you notice any symptoms of athlete’s foot, then treat it appropriately as soon as you notice the problem. This fungus can easily spread to your nails, becoming a raging fungal nail infection.