Staying One Step Ahead Of Toenail Fungus
An established fungal infection is hard to eradicate, but you can stop its spread and improve your toenail’s appearance.
Toenail fungus isn’t a pressing health problem. Yet a fungal infection can ruin the appearance of your nails and cause pain as it lifts the nail away from the nail bed. And fungal infections are notoriously difficult to get rid of. “You may want to consider fungal toenail a condition to be managed rather than cured,” says Dr. James P. Ioli, chief of the podiatry service at Harvard-affiliated Brigham and Women’s Hospital.
Sets With Creams And A Nail Scraper
Treatment sets that contain two creams and a nail scraper can also be used for the topical treatment of nail fungus:
- One cream has urea in it, which softens the nail so it can be removed.
- The other cream contains bifonazole, which has an antifungal effect.
For this treatment, the affected toe or finger first has to be soaked in warm water for ten minutes and then dried. After that, the urea-based cream is applied to the nail, and the nail is covered with an adhesive bandage. After 24 hours, the bandage is removed and the toe or finger is held in warm water again. The softened layer of the nail is then scraped off using a spatula, the cream is applied again and the nail is covered with a new bandage. This treatment is carried out over 14 days. Once the infected part of the nail has been scraped away completely, the skin beneath is treated for another four weeks with a bifonazole cream.
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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It’s certainly not cute or glamorous, and can even be downright embarrassing, but nail fungus happens. Nail fungal infections technically called onychomycosis say that three times fast actually occur in 10 percent of the general population, 20 percent of people older than 60 years old, and 50 percent of those older than 70, according to the American Academy of Family Physicians.
Mayo Clinic Q And A: Treatment For Toenail Fungus Isnt Always Necessary
DEAR MAYO CLINIC: I am in my late 50s, and a few of my toenails have turned a yellowish color and seem to have thickened. Is this something I should be concerned about? Is there anything I can do to fix this?
ANSWER: What youre likely experiencing is a fungal nail infection. Fungal nail infections are common, especially among older adults. As nail growth slows with age, its easier for fungus to establish in the nail bed. Treatments are available, although they may take some vigilance and are not always necessary.
Toenail fungus usually is caused by a microscopic organism called dermatophyte fungus. It often begins as a white or yellow spot under the tip of your toenail. But as the infection goes deeper, nail fungus may cause your nail to discolor, thicken and crumble at the edge. These fungal infections are more likely to happen in your toenails than in your fingernails because toenails often are confined in a dark, warm, moist environment, where fungi can thrive. Toes also have less blood flow than fingers, making it harder for your bodys immune system to detect and stop the infection. But it is possible for fingernails to be affected.
The older you are, the more likely you are to get toenailfungus. Thats because as you age, your immune system changes. Inaddition, your nails become more brittle and drier over time, creating morecracks where fungus can live.
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Treatments For Fungal Nail Infections
Treatment isn’t always needed for a mild fungal nail infection because it’s unlikely to cause any further problems and you may feel it’s not worth treating.
Whether you decide to have treatment or not, you should still practise good foot hygiene to stop the infection getting worse or spreading to others.
Speak to your GP or pharmacist if you’re bothered by the appearance of the affected nail, or it’s causing problems such as pain and discomfort. They’ll probably recommend:
- antifungal tablets tablets taken once or twice a day for several months
- antifungal nail paints special paints applied directly to the nail over several months
- nail softening kits where a paste is used to soften infected parts of the nail, before they’re removed with a scraping device
A procedure to remove the nail completely may be recommended in severe cases. Laser treatment, where a high-energy laser is used to destroy the fungus, is also an option. But this is only available privately and can be expensive.
You can reduce your risk of developing a fungal nail infection by:
Nail salon equipment can sometimes be the source of fungal nail infections. If you regularly visit a salon, make sure any equipment used is properly sterilised between uses.
What Is The Anatomy Of The Nail
To have a better understanding of how fungal nail infection affects the nail, a general knowledge of the anatomy of the nail is helpful . The nail, or nail unit, consists of the following parts:
- The nail matrix is where nail cells multiply and keratinize before being incorporated into the fingernail or toenail. Most of the matrix is not visible. The matrix starts under the skin 5 mm below the nail fold and covers the area called the lunula, or half moon .
- The cuticle is a fold of modified skin where the finger or toe meets the nail. The cuticle protects the matrix from infection.
- The nail plate is the nail itself.
- The nail bed is the soft tissue underneath the nail, anchoring the nail plate. The nail plate protects the nail bed.
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Top 12 Home Remedies To Get Rid Of Nail Fungus Naturally
Commonly known to the layman as fungal nail infection, Onychomycosis is an infection that occurs when fungus forms beneath the nails. The condition can develop as a result of poor foot hygiene, continuous exposure to moist environments, wearing unbreathable synthetic socks, accumulation of sweat in shoes, imbalanced pH levels of the skin, a compromised immune system, and conditions like diabetes that constricts blood flow.Upon infection, Onychomycosis will cause the nail to thicken, discolor, and eventually crumble into pieces. If left untreated, the condition can become painful. As the infection progresses, areas around the infected toenails or fingernails may swell and begin to give off a foul smell too.
How Fungi Infect The Nail
Onchomycosis, or toenail fungal infection, is an invasion by a microscopic organism that thrives in warm, damp environments. Fungal spores are in the air, and they will grow if they land on a receptive surface like your toenail. They feed off the nail tissues, burrowing into the skin under the nail. Over time the nail thickens and may lift off the nail bed as fungal debris accumulates. Once your nail is raised off the nail bed, it won’t reattach, and a new nail won’t grow from that part of the nail bed. However, your nail will continue to grow from the root at the base.
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Why Does It Develop
A fungal nail infection occurs from the overgrowth of fungi in, under, or on the nail. Fungi thrive in warm, moist environments, so this type of environment can cause them to naturally overpopulate. The same fungi that cause jock itch, athletes foot, and ringworm can cause nail infections.
Fungi that are already present in or on your body can cause nail infections. If you have come in contact with someone else who has a fungal infection, you may have contracted it as well. Fungal infections affect toenails more commonly than fingernails, likely because your toes are usually confined to shoes, where theyre in a warm, moist environment.
If you get a manicure or pedicure at a nail salon, be sure to ask how the staff disinfects their tools and how often they do it. Tools, such as emery boards and nail clippers, can spread fungal infections from person to person if theyre not sanitized.
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What Does Fungal Nail Look Like
Usually, it first appears on the edge of your nail, under the tip, as a white or yellow streak. This streak gradually spreads down the side of your nail to the base.
Eventually, your nail becomes brittle, discoloured, thickened and distorted. It can become so thick that it hurts when pressed against the side of a shoe.
The nail may end up crumbling and splitting, and separating from the skin. It often turns yellow or brown.
The surrounding skin may also become infected and may itch, crack, form a blister, or appear white especially between the toes. Its important to act quickly if you notice any of these symptoms. If you don’t treat the infection, there’s a chance it will worsen and spread to other nails.
What Are Treatments For Toenail Fungus
Do you need to treat your nail fungus? Maybe it doesn’t hurt, and the yellow, thick nails don’t bother you.
But nail fungus doesn’t go away by itself. And if you don’t treat it, there’s a chance it could get worse. It could spread to other nails or through your body. It could cause pain when you walk.
There are a number of ways to take care of it, including:
Nonprescription options. You can buy antifungal creams, gels, and nail polish at the store and online without a prescription. You might want to try one of them first if the infection doesn’t look bad. Some people also swear by home remedies like menthol rub, tea tree oil, mouthwash, or snakeroot extract — but studies show mixed results.
Prescription polish and creams. Your foot doctor will likely trim your nail and file away its dead layers. They may also take a piece of your nail and send it to the lab to make sure itâs really a fungus and to find out what type it is.
The doctor might suggest an antifungal drug that you paint on your nails. This may work on its own, or they may suggest you take it with antifungal pills.
Prescription medications. One of several antifungal pills may help. They work, but it may take many months to do the job. They also come with side effects like nausea, vomiting, and headaches. They may cause liver damage too, so your doctor will watch you closely while you take them. Be sure to tell them about any other meds youâre taking — some antifungal pills might not work well with them.
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How To Treat Fungal Nail Effectively
Owing to the high recurrence rate of fungal nail infections, pharmacy professionals should be able to advise patients on effective treatment and preventative and appropriate self-care strategies to avoid re-infection.
Fungal nail infection is a mycotic infection caused by fungal invasion of the nail structure and is one of the most common nail disorders, representing half of nail abnormalities in adults. Its prevalence in Europe is around 4.3% over all age groups and 15.5% of all nail dystrophies in children. OM is more commonly diagnosed in men and older people, affecting 2050% of people aged over 60 years. An increased incidence among older people may be attributed to multiple factors, including reduced peripheral circulation, diabetes, inactivity, relative immunosuppression, and reduced nail growth and quality. Toenails are affected more commonly than fingernails.
This article will cover the causes, types and treatment of OM, practical information to help guide patient consultations and when to refer to podiatry.
Home Remedies For Fingernail Fungus Infection
Fingernail fungus is very itchy and irritating, and in some cases, this can lead to the feeling of pain on skin. It was also widely known as the result of sensitive and dry skin,caused by the skin water deficiency and can sometimes even cause skin redness. The situation can turn to be painful, embarrassing, and all-around nasty rapidly. Thus, you will need to take extra care while treating this problem. In fact, this infection can happen on both your toenails and fingernails and can cover around 6-8% of all adult population.
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Nail Fungus: Polish Cream Or Tablets
Nail fungus can be very persistent. Topical treatment with nail polish may take up to one year. Tablets for treating fungal nail infections usually have to be taken for several weeks or months. They are much more effective than topical treatments, but they have more side effects.
Brittle nails and a whitish-yellowish or brownish discoloration are typical signs of nail fungus. The nails may also become thicker and change shape. The affected part of the nail sometimes detaches from the nail bed. The treatment options for nail fungus include nail polishes and creams as well as tablets. Nail polishes and creams are available in pharmacies without a prescription.
Side Effects Of Toenail Fungus Medication
One of the many benefits of using a homeopathic remedy is that there are little to no adverse side effects. Topical treatments often prescribed to treat toenail fungus can potentially burn or blister the skin. Oral medications for treating onychomycosis can cause liver or gastrointestinal damage. Be sure to read your medications list of potential side effects. Consult your pharmacist, physician, or specialist if you are concerned about side effects of prescription drugs.
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Does Tea Tree Oil Work
Results from scientific studies supporting the use of tea tree oil to treat nail fungus are mixed. Some of the research points to tea tree oils potential as an antifungal, but more studies are needed.
According to a 2013 study, tea tree oil was effective in reducing growth of the fungus Trichophyton rubrum in nail infections. T. rubrum is a fungus that can cause infections such as athletes foot and nail fungus. Improvements were seen after 14 days.
This study used an in vitro model, which is sometimes called a test-tube experiment. In in vitro studies, the experiment is done in a test tube instead of on an animal or human. Larger human studies are needed to expand on these findings.
Combining tea tree oil with standard medicated creams is also an option. A small 1999 study found that participants were able to successfully manage toenail fungus by using a cream that contained butenafine hydrochloride and tea tree oil.
After 16 weeks of treatment, 80 percent of participants who used this cream cured their toenail fungus with no relapses. No one in the placebo group cured their nail fungus. Further studies are needed to determine which of these ingredients is most useful in treating nail fungus.
Results of a 1994 study found pure tea tree oil was equally as effective as the antifungal clotrimazole in treating fungal toenail infections. Clotrimazole is available both over the counter and by prescription.
Even with diluted tea tree oil, always do a skin patch test before use:
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Nail Polish And Contaminated Equipment
A 2018 study found evidence that fungi may be able to live and multiply in some nail polishes. It may be a good idea to avoid sharing nail polish.
Contaminated equipment at a nail salon can also expose you to types of fungi that may lead to an infection.
Your fungal infection may not cause any symptoms in the beginning, until it progresses.
As the infection gets worse, you may experience:
Fingernail infections often clear up on their own or with home remedies. Antifungal medications are used for more serious infections.
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This article was medically reviewed by Luba Lee, FNP-BC, MS. Luba Lee, FNP-BC is a board certified Family Nurse Practitioner and educator in Tennessee with over a decade of clinical experience. Luba has certifications in Pediatric Advanced Life Support , Emergency Medicine, Advanced Cardiac Life Support , Team Building, and Critical Care Nursing. She received her Master of Science in Nursing from the University of Tennessee in 2006. This article has been viewed 326,359 times.
Onychomycosis, or nail fungus, is a common infection that affects toenails and, less frequently, fingernails. It is caused by a group of fungus called dermatophytes, which thrives in warm, moist environments, like your shoes. If you suspect you have a nail infection, try to treat it quickly and routinely, as the fungus will continue to come back if allowed to take hold.
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