Symptoms Of Nail Fungus
Loose and or fungal damaged nails look very much the same and appear as a yellowish, white, or black discoloration of the nail. The technical term for loose nails is onycholysis and that of nail fungus is onychomycosis. In the latter case, the nail may also appear thickened or brittle. In severe cases, the nail may break or completely disintegrate.
Toenails are more affected than fingernails often due to the pressure of footwear and the closed and sweaty environment which encourages nail fungal growth. Finding a cure is tiresome and a nail fungal infection can spread to other areas of the hands and feet if left untreated. Effects can be cosmetic or can cause severe pain and low self-esteem.
Preventing Toenail Fungus From Spreading
While you can’t avoid contact with the microscopic organisms that cause toenail fungus its present anywhere that is warm, dark, or moist keeping your feet clean and dry and clipping your nails properly can help prevent an infection.
For fungus to grow, there needs to be some type of trauma to the nail where the nail-skin junction, or natural barrier, is disrupted, says Sheth. For example, from a pedicure, ill-fitting shoes, or the repetitive trauma of running or hiking that causes the nail to lift or get pressed on from shoes or boots.
Still, some people are more vulnerable than others, she adds. Some people have it only on one toe or one foot, and some have lived with a partner who has it but they never get it,” Sheth says. “And for some you see it in their entire family. It’s not as straightforward as it seems, and it’s an annoying problem.
If you do get a toenail fungus infection, these measures can help stop it from spreading:
Getting rid of established toenail fungus can be difficult. Successfully eliminating it depends on careful adherence to a treatment plan.
“What happens over time is that the fungus breeds in the nail tissue and goes from being just a little bit on the nail, to a really discolored and thickened nail, to a nail that is totally embedded with fungus,” explains Marlene Reid, a doctor of podiatric medicine in Naperville, Illinois, and a spokesperson for the American Podiatric Medical Association.
What Is The Most Effective Treatment For Toenail Fungus
The most effective toenail fungus treatment for you will largely depend on your symptoms and situation. Your provider will consider several factors before recommending a treatment plan thats customized to you.
Overall, oral antifungal medications may offer the most treatment potential. Pairing oral drugs with topical antifungal medication may make treatment more effective.
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How To Use It
Apply mentholated ointment directly to the affected nail. Do this about once a day for several weeks or until the nail shows noticeable improvements.
Vinegar is a common household product found in cooking and some home cleaning solutions. Though no clinical evidence exists to date, there is anecdotal evidence to suggest that vinegar is an effective tool to help treat toenail fungus.
Dangers Of Traditional Treatment Options
Fungal nail infection is treatable with oral anti-fungal drugs, topical medications, surgery, or laser treatments. The problem with these modern treatments, however, is that they can sometimes cause complications. Depending on the chosen treatment, some of the possible side effects that may occur include skin rashes, blisters, loss of appetite, gastrointestinal issues, headaches, respiratory problems, abnormal nail growth, or liver damage.
Due to the many risks associated with modern treatments for fungal nail infection, many people are now opting for alternative remedies that are relatively safer. As an added bonus, its also possible to treat fungal nail infection using just a few basic ingredients one already has available at home.
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What Causes Split Nails
The most common split nail causes include nail fungal infections, overexposure to water or moisture, nails that are too dry, exposure to harsh chemicals, repeatedly polishing the nails, and in some cases, a vitamin deficiency or malnutrition. Even ordinary bathing, swimming, and washing the dishes can all wreak havoc on split nails especially when the hands and feet are not taken care of properly afterward.
Fingernails grow rather slowly as it is and a split nail never has the chance to grow to the usual two to three millimeters a month due to the breaking, cracking, flaking, and peeling that occurs from fungus or damage to the nail bed. It can take six months or more to re-grow an entire nail from the cuticle to the tip so its important to treat your affected nails before symptoms worsen.
What Happens If Nail Fungus Is Left Untreated
If left untreated, nail fungus can lead to complications. It can become painful and cause permanent damage to your nail. Also, the nails can become thick, rough and unpleasant to look at, or brittle and weak where they crumble and stop growing.
If you have a suppressed immune system or diabetes it can lead to other complications in your body.
In extreme cases, a bacterial skin infection called Cellulitis can also develop.
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Difficulties With Nail Infections
While many cases of fungus are mild, some become complicated. When issues are severe, the toxins can cause permanent damage to the nail, and you may lose it. The goal is to keep the infection from spreading to other body areas beyond the feet.
The biggest concern is those who have a compromised immune system, which can be dangerous if the infection gets out of control. Those with Type 2 diabetes can often have circulation issues too that affect their feet. This puts you at a greater risk of developing a bacterial skin infection like cellulitis that can be dangerous.
With diabetes, any infection that affects your feet can be a severe complication requiring prompt medical help. While most dont need to be concerned if there is a small dot of yellow or white under the nail, for the diabetic, its a cause for alarm.
Foot Fungus: Causes And Risk Factors
A foot fungus is a fungal infection of the skin, better known as athletes foot, says Sundling. The fungus enters through cracks in the skin. Its known as athletes foot because athletes or anyone who is more active and sweats a lot is more at risk. Kids are also more at risk, because they dont tend to wear different shoes, and changing your shoes is one way to avoid foot fungus.
Foot fungus is very common. It does not mean that someone is dirty or didnt bathe, and if you have a compromised immune system, you may be more susceptible, says Sundling.
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How Do Dermatologists Treat A Fungal Nail Infection
Treatment usually begins with your dermatologist trimming your infected nail, cutting back each infected nail to the place where it attaches to your finger or toe. Your dermatologist may also scrape away debris under the nail. This helps get rid of some fungus.
To completely get rid of the infection, most people also need one or more of the following treatments:
Medicine you apply to the nail: If you have a mild infection, a medicine that you apply to your nails may get rid of the infection. This treatment helps keep new fungus out while the nails grow. Fingernails typically grow out in four to six months. Toenails take longer, usually takes 12 to 18 months.
Probably the most difficult part of this treatment is remembering to use it as often as prescribed. Some treatments must be applied every day. Others you apply once a week. To get the best results, its essential that you apply these medicines exactly as directed.
The US Food and Drug Administration has approved the following medicines that you apply to the nail to treat nail fungus:
Side effects from these medicines are generally mild. Possible side effects include redness and swelling, an ingrown toenail, and stinging or burning when you apply the medicine. In clinical trials, none of these side effects caused patients to stop using the treatment.
The FDA has approved the following systemic medicines to treat nail fungus:
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How To Prevent Both Foot And Toenail Fungus
While toenail fungus and foot fungus arent the same condition, the following tips can help you prevent both, says Sundling:
- Practice good hygiene, such as keeping your feet clean.
- Alternate your shoes during the week. Your feet sweat all day long. Alternating your shoes allows them to dry out, so the fungus cant survive.
- Wear moisture-wicking socks that help dry out shoes and kill fungus. You can find these at running stores and athletic stores. If your socks are exceptionally sweaty, changing them more than once per day can help.
- Wear shoes in public places like locker rooms, pools, and gyms to limit exposure to fungus.
When Should I Call The Doctor
In rare cases, toenail fungus can cause an infection called cellulitis. Without prompt treatment, cellulitis may pose a serious danger to your health.
You should seek treatment guidance from a trusted healthcare provider if you have:
- Circulation problems.
- Redness, pain or pus near the toenail.
- Weakened immune system.
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Can Severe Toenail Fungus Be Cured
Yes but not by just topical medication!
- Many people with toenail fungus are never able to successful treat their toenail fungus.
- It is unfortunate because they desperately try every home remedy and buy expensive topical creams that state they are a miracle cure. But nothing ever works out.
- This is because they are treating the symptoms of the disease and not the cause.
- The toenail must become weak and the nail bed must be damaged before the fungus ever enters into the picture.
- According to current scientific literature, less than 30% of all deformed and thick nails were initially caused by toenail fungus.
Can I Wear Nail Polish If I Have Toenail Fungus
You may feel tempted to cover up a discolored toenail with nail polish. If you are using a topical antifungal, you probably should not use polish. Some providers may tell you not to wear it in any case. Polish traps in moisture from the nailbed . Because fungi thrive in moist environments, wearing nail polish may make a fungal infection worse. However, the nail continues to grow with or without polish.
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Can I Get A Pedicure With Toenail Fungus
A pedicure probably wont hurt you if you already have a toenail fungus. But if youre aware of the issue, you might want to alert the staff ahead of time. That way, they can be sure to fully sterilize the equipment after you use it. In some cases, they may even ask you to bring your own disposable tools for the job.
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- Again the goal is to exfoliate your skin as much as possible before you even need these products.
- At this point, this will really help keep your toenail fungus and foot fungus way for as long as possible.
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Prevention And Treatment Of Toenail Fungus
Once its taken hold, toenail fungus can be hard to kick. Here are some techniques for the prevention and treatment of toenail fungus.
Anyone who enjoys wearing open-toed sandals in the summer knows how good it feels to have healthy-looking toenails. But good looks arent the only reason to keep your toenails in top shape. Fungal infections of the toenails also known as onychomycosis donât go away on their own, and if left untreated, the fungus will spread and can eventually destroy the nail.
If you have comprised blood flow, theres even more reason to safeguard your toenails, since youll have trouble healing, says Ami Sheth, a doctor of podiatric medicine in Los Gatos, California, and a spokesperson for the American Podiatric Medical Association. And once you have a wound, you can get fungal skin infections, which can lead to a subsequent bacterial infection if the skin breaks down, notes Dr. Sheth.
However, because toenail fungal infections are typically painless, people are often unaware that they have a problem unless they are inspecting their feet regularly.
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How To Diagnose Yellow Nail Syndrome
You shouldnt ignore a change in nail color or shape, especially if your nails turn yellow. Yellow nails can indicate a problem with your liver or kidney, diabetes mellitus, fungal infections, or psoriasis, which need to be treated by a doctor.
If you develop yellow nails along with swelling or respiratory problems, see a doctor.
A doctor may diagnose yellow nail syndrome if you exhibit primary symptoms of the condition. Your doctor may also order a pulmonary function test to measure how well your lungs work or take a sample of your nail to check for fungus.
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When To See A Doctor
In most cases, toenail fungus is considered a cosmetic problem. Still, it may cause serious complications for some people.
If you have diabetes, toenail fungus may lead to foot ulcers or other foot problems. According to a 2012 study, chronic toenail fungus is a significant risk factor for bacterial cellulitis of the leg.
If you have diabetes or a weakened immune system, you shouldnt use home remedies for toenail fungus. Contact your doctor for the appropriate course of action.
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Whos At Risk For Fungal Infections
There are many different causes of fungal nail infections. Each cause has a treatment of its own. Although many of the causes of a fungal nail infection are preventable, some risk factors increase the likelihood of developing one. Youre more likely to develop a fungal nail infection if you:
- wear closed-toe shoes, such as tennis shoes or boots
Nail infections occur more often in men than in women, and the infections are found in adults more often than in children. If you have family members who often get these types of fungal infections, youre more likely to get them as well.
Older adults have a high risk for getting fungal nail infections because they have poorer circulation. The nails also grow more slowly and thicken as we age.
A fungal infection of the nail may affect part of the nail, the entire nail, or several nails.
Common signs of a fungal nail infection include:
- a distorted nail that may lift off from the nail bed
- an odor coming from the infected nail
- a brittle or thickened nail
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How Is Toenail Fungus Treated
Toenail fungus is notoriously tricky to treat. You may need to treat the condition for several months to get rid of the fungus. Still, toenail fungus often comes back.
A dermatologist or podiatrist can explain your treatment options. If you have a mild case that doesnt bother you, your provider may recommend no treatment.
Toenail fungus treatment options include:
- Oral antifungal medication: You take prescribed medication, such terbinafine , itraconazole and fluconazole , to treat the fungi. You will need to take this medication every day for several months . Your provider may use blood tests to check for potential medication side effects. These medications can affect the liver and interact with other medications, so oral antifungals are not for everyone.
- Topical medication: You regularly apply a medication right on the nail. The medication treats the fungi over time. Topical medications are most effective when paired with oral medications.
- Laser treatments: Your provider directs a high-tech laser beam and special lights at the toenail to treat the fungus. Lasers are FDA approved for temporary increase of clear nail in nail fungus but is not a cure. Cure rates for laser treatment are lower than oral and topical mediations so they are not typically used as first line treatments for nail fungus.