A fungal nail infection impacts the keratin that the nail is composed of. The infection is caused by a build-up of fungi that is already present in the skin of the feet. The symptoms of the fungal nail infection range from superficial and harmless, to deep and painful, depending on the stage of the infection. If the infection is allowed to settle in, it can be quite stubborn to treat, taking up to a year with some treatments . In some cases, it can even cause the loss of the nail. Hence, it is best to avoid getting the infection in the first place – this can be achieved by practicing good personal hygiene.
What is Fungal Nail Infection?
A fungal nail infection is an infection that attacks the nails on your toes. Symptoms of the affliction include thickened nails as well as discolouration (the nail can change colour to white, black or yellow). The discolouration is often the first sign that the nail has fallen prey to fungal nail infection, and this symptom should never be ignored.
A fungal nail infection starts out being painless, and in most cases it does not cause any further complications beyond this point. But if the infection is not treated when it begins, it may settle in and cause pain and loss of the nail at a later stage (though nail loss is relatively rare). Fungal nail infections can affect a part or all of the nail, including the nail plate, the nail bed and the root of the nail. In instances where there is pain, it can eventually make wearing shoes, or even walking, quite difficult. In the later stages, the nail may become brittle, and pieces of the nail may chip off, or the nail could separate from the nail bed entirely.
Knowing the Cause
Some people have recurring fungal nail infections. Understanding what triggers it can help you prevent its recurrence, and even stop you from in contracting a fungal nail in future. Essentially, a buildup of the dermatophyte fungi on your feet (that normally resides on the skin between your toes) leads to a fungal nail. As such, this fungus essentially causes the fungi to build up into a full blown infection. Risk factors include:
- Humid environments such as public swimming pools, gym changing rooms and communal showers.
- Damaged skin or nails, such as broken skin on the feet
- Poor health, low immunity or certain health conditions like diabetes
- Wearing tight shoes that cause your feet to sweat
- Wearing the same socks and shoes on consecutive days without allowing them to dry out first
- Poor daily foot hygiene, and not washing the feet, socks or insoles regularly
Taking care of your feet is ultimately the best way to prevent a fungal nail infection. However, you may be facing some other issues (such as a health problem or a cut on your foot) that could potentially cause fungal nail infections.
Avoiding Fungal Nail Infection
Avoiding a fungal nail can be easy to do, with these general tips to follow:
- Look for the early signs of an infection, such as a small discoloration on the nail. This is potentially the first sign of the infection.
- Keep your feet cool and dry, and wear shoes and socks that allow your feet to breathe
- Wear clean cotton socks daily so that they absorb the excess sweat
- Try to keep your feet covered when out and about, taking care to dry them if they get sweaty. When indoors, sandals or slippers may be a good choice of footwear since they keep the feet cool and aired
- Clip your nails frequently, cutting them quite short and being careful when trimming the edges
- Wear shower shoes or sandals when using a communal shower, when at the gym or at the community swimming pool
- Replace your footwear frequently (once in six months to eight months) and don’t wear the same pair of shoes on two consecutive days – let them dry out first
If you still pick up an infection, or think that your nails have contracted it, it is best to take your doctor’s advice on what to do next. Once the infection is contained, you can clean the affected nails using Scholl’s Velvet Smooth Electric Care Nail Care system, which scientifically removes the damaged nail by buffing, filing and polishing it. In the process, the nails become shiny and look as good as ever.