Nail Fungus 101
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What is Nail Fungus?
Nail fungus is caused by fungi burrowing underneath either a finger or toe nail and causing discoloration and thickening. This can become an embarrassing cosmetic problem. These Dermatophytes, cause an infection in the nail bed underneath the nail causing all of this and sometimes even become painful.
How Nail Fungus is Contracted
Like bacteria, fungi thrives in moist, dark and humid conditions. This means nail fungus can be contracted simply by walking barefoot at public pools or showers, in locker rooms or even getting a pedicure. Individuals with particularly sweaty feet are also more prone to contracting nail fungus. Toes are more likely to contract nail fungus because they are mostly hidden inside shoes, where the sweat from your feet keep it warm and moist. Fingernails are mostly always in the open where they have access to more light and are washed frequently. People who easily contract athlete’s foot or those with a decreased immune system are also more susceptible to fungal infections of their nails.
How to Tell if it’s Nail Fungus
The first telltale sign that there is possible nail fungus is discoloration. This discoloration will come in the form of a yellow or white spot, underneath the tip of the infected nail(s). Over time, this spot will spread throughout the nail bed and begin to darken in color. Nail fungus can, eventually push the nail up from the nail bed, giving off a foul smell, as well as causing pain to the tips of the fingers or toes.
Common Treatments for Nail Fungus
Nail fungus is incredibly hard to treat. Over the counter anti-fungal ointments have little effect on nail fungus. This type of fungal infection requires aggressive treatment. This may include the administration of oral anti-fungal medications such as Lamisil and others like it. These oral medications typically need six to twelve weeks to rid the nail of the infection. However, these treatments do come with side effects such as, liver damage and skin rashes. Consult a dermatologist to discuss the risks and benefits of taking oral medications.
Although it only has an effective rate of ten percent, there is a product called Cyclopirox. This is a medicated nail polish that is applied weekly for up to a year. Every week, a patient will remove the last coat of Cyclopirox with alcohol swabs and replace it with another fresh coating of the lacquer. As stated before, this type of treatment has little success, although may have more if paired with an oral medication. If the fungal infection of your nail gets too bad, your dermatologist may have to completely remove the nail.
Another way to prevent fungal infections of the nails is to keep both finger and toe nails cut short and straight across. Throw away any old shoes, especially if they have been worn previously with an infection. Lastly, before putting shoes or socks on, allow feet to dry completely after swimming, bathing, etc.
Nail fungus is a pretty common problem. For the most part, it may be ugly but it is not harmful. However, if an individual suffers from Diabetes or other circulation and feet issues, consult a dermatologist or physician just in case. Leaving nail fungus unchecked in these types of people can lead to amputation.
If one is not sure, always consult a dermatologist or physician. It is better to be safe than sorry!