What is Nail Fungus? Nail fungus which is medically known as Onychomycosis, is a medical condition which arises due to a microscopic fungus entering the fingernail and spreading there. Nail fungus can happen in either in a fingernail or a toenail. However, due to the obvious hygiene issues this fungal growth is observed more often in toenail. This can happen in any age bracket, but is commonly observed after the age of 60 and even more as the age increases thereafter. People who are diabetic, suffering from vascular problems, with impaired immunity or into smoking are at the increased risk of catching this problem. But one can catch it, otherwise also due to poor foot hygiene, family history or genetics. It is much more than just of cosmetic value as the nail fungus can be extremely painful and can cause difficulty in wearing footwear and in adverse situation lead to difficulty in walking also.
Causes. Fungal condition in the nail can happen due to overgrowth of any other bacterial or fungal disorder already present in the body or it can be caught if you come in contact of any such conditon. A broken or injured nail is at the risk of getting infected by fungus. Such problem flourishes in damp and wet areas which is generally found in and around fingernail or area between two fingers. Improper nail care and not maintaining good foot care and hygiene can lead to nail fungus.
Nail Fungus Symptoms
If you are suspecting fungal infection in your fingernail, the following are the nail fungus symptoms to look for confirmation before you finally see the doctor:
• Thickening of fingernail on the edges
• Discolouring of fingernail, including the skin around
• Dullness and loss of shine
• Pain in the area
• Pus formation in later stages
• Finger turning brittle
• Foul smell from the nail
• White spots
Types Of Nail Fungus
There are four types of nail fungus, which are:
• Distal subungual onychomycosis. This is the most common type and also the most difficult to cure. One of the main causes is poor fitting shoes. The bacteria of DSO develops under the nail bed and eats up the nail leading it to crumble and break. Debris of broken nail under the outer nail creates a lot of discomfort and pain.
• White superficial onychomycosis. Even this is a affliction but can be treated easily. In this white spots appear on the surface of the fingernail initially, but soon the entire surface gets covered with white chalky powder.
• Candida onychomycosis. This is a kind of yeast infection, which is not common and is found mainly in fingernail. It can spread to all the fingernails and eventually makes the nail separate from the skin. Fingernail can look thicker and show redness or swelling of the area.
• Proximal subungual onychomycosis. This is more common in HIV patients. The common signs are base of the nail appearing white and nail opaque. Even the skin gets infected in this type of onychomycosis.
Nail Fungus Treatment
The treatment differs for infections of different types and also depending upon the severity of the affliction. The fingernail fungus treatment or onychomycosis treatment is not very different from toenail fungus treatment. The different nail fungus treatment available are:
• During mild infections, anti fungal creams available in the market may help, but chances are as low as 7%.
• Taking oral medication helps in 50% of the cases, but may take even 9-12 months to ascertain that the disease has completely eradicated.
• Photodynamic therapy has been noted for giving better results in which light activated agents are used for the treatment.
• Nail treatment laser remedies are established treatment removes the infection from the base. Since fungal-infections are sensitive towards heat, the generation of same during laser treatment helps to eradicate it completely.
• Oncychomycosis treatment involves electrical current at times, which helps in absorbing the topical antifungal medication into the toenail.
• Minor surgery in which the toenail is removed from the root is another treatment which is met when the condition worsens and leads to the generation of pus in the affected area.
• Amongst toenail fungus home remedies, little has been medically proven, but here are the popular home remedies in practice.
• Soaking infected fingernail in the solution of vinegar and warm water in equal proportion for around 15 min and the treatment to be repeated at least twice a day.
• Dab a cotton ball in either of the oils, lavender, tea tree or thyme and apply on the affected area twice or thrice daily.
• Rubbing alcohol is a chemical solution with anti fungal properties. Soaking the toenail in this solution for 20 minutes every day can help removing the fungus.
• Marjoram is known for its antibacterial and anti fungal properties. Mix two drops of this oil in a spoonful of olive oil. Application of this mixture on the infected area once everyday can help in getting rid of the infection. But this treatment should not be done for more than 3 weeks.
• There are other chemicals and solutions like mouthwash, hydrogen peroxide (3%), and grapefruit seed extract which have been found useful in tackling the fungal infections and that too at home only.
Prevention. Making certain changes and observing precautions can keep you away from this fungal infection. The basic precaution like any other bacterial infection is maintaining adequate hygiene. Fingernail like any other body part need equal care and attention. Maintaining them by regular trimming, cleaning and avoiding direct contact with wet or damp area for a long duration can help keeping you away from this infection. Some other tips are:
• Regular spray of antifungal spray or powder inside and around your place of living.
• Avoid wearing damp socks and change them every day as far as possible.
• Going to clean salons for your manicure and pedicures. Ensure that the tools used are clean before use.
• After bath clean your nail tips and area between the fingers properly and dry them completely.
• Avoid walking barefoot in public places.
• Wear sweat absorbent or cotton socks.
• Wear well fitting shoes.
Although nail fungus can be treated but can always reoccur if the precautions are not observed. A person who has got infected with nail fungus is at the risk of catching the infection again. Therefore, it is imperative to observe precautions and take good care of the fingernail so that it does not occur again. If the infection recurs in the same toenail, again and again, it may lead to permanent toenail loss or permanent disfiguring of the toenail which will obviously be a very disheartening thing. So take care now.