Health Care and Nail Fungus

- August 26, 2013
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Have you ever been victim of a common disease that infects your nails, especially your toe nails? Toenail fungal infections (onychomycosis) aren't pleasant. If you have had it, you may experience anything from toenail discoloration, awful odor and discharges, to the nail completely dropping off. While it can seem worrying at the time, the good news is that it is treatable.

The future good health of your toenails is generally assured, provided you continue to take good care of them and observe appropriate precautions to avoid future infections. Be aware that treating nail infections, while certainly easy and doable, is a long process and will likely require the involvement of a doctor.

According to the National Institutes of Health (NIH), onychomycosis, is a chronic infection of the fingernails and/or toenails by dermatophytes, yeasts and molds leading to gradual destruction of the nail plate. It is more likely to affect toenails, particularly the first toenail, than fingernails. And, recent surveys in the United States suggested that 7 to 10 percent of the population is affected. An infected nail often will have unsightly white/yellow or orange/brown patches or streaks. It can also turn thicker, crumbly, ragged or dull, according to the Mayo Clinic. In some cases the nail will emit a slightly foul odor and it may separate from the nail bed, a process known as onycholysis.

According to this website: , onychomycosis is not self-healing and may be a source of more widespread fungal lesions on the skin, or vice versa. Both topical and oral treatments are available. Oral antifungal medications such as terbinafine (commonly marketed under the trade name Lamisil), itraconazole (Sporanox) and fluconazole (Diflucan or Trican) encourage the growth of new, non-infected nail, while slowly cycling out infected portion of the nail, according to the Mayo Clinic. The medication is usually taken for six to 12 weeks, but a toenail may take up to 78 weeks to grow fully and preventative measures should be taken during that gap to avoid recurrent infection.

Over-the-counter antifungal creams and ointments generally do not help cure onychomyocis because of poor penetration into the nail, according to the NIH. However, some nail lacquers have shown to be somewhat effective in a large study where only nails infected at the free edge were treated.

Successful eradication of the fungus may still leave the nail looking permanently abnormal because of trauma to the nail bed and nail plate by the disease, according to a 2007 article published in the Journal of the American Academy of Dermatology. Therefore a cure should be based on lab tests and not on visual appearance.

According to APMA (American Podiatric Medical Association), because it is difficult to avoid contact with microscopic organisms like fungi, the toenails are especially vulnerable around damp areas where you are likely to be walking barefoot, such as swimming pools, locker rooms, and showers, for example. Injury to the nail bed may make it more susceptible to all types of infection, including fungal infection. Those who suffer from chronic diseases, such as diabetes, circulatory problems, or immune-deficiency conditions, are especially prone to fungal nails. Other contributing factors may be a history of athlete's foot and excessive perspiration.

Treatments may vary, depending on the nature and severity of the infection. Your podiatrist can detect a fungal infection early, culture the nail, determine the cause, and form a suitable treatment plan, which may include prescribing topical or oral medication, and debridement (removal of diseased nail matter and debris) of an infected nail, according to APMA.

Newer oral antifungals, approved by the Food and Drug Administration, may be the most effective treatment. They offer a shorter treatment regimen of approximately three months and improved effectiveness. Your podiatrist may also prescribe a topical treatment, which can be an effective treatment modality for fungal nails. In some cases, surgical treatment may be required. Temporary removal of the infected nail can be performed to permit direct application of a topical antifungal. Permanent removal of a chronically painful nail that has not responded to any other treatment permits the fungal infection to be cured and prevents the return of a deformed nail.

Trying to solve the infection without the qualified help of a podiatrist can lead to more problems. With new technical advances in combination with simple preventive measures, the treatment of this lightly regarded health problem can often be successful, according to this website: . And, a separate website with the National Nail Fungus Organization shows treatment options: .

Fungi are everywhere, but you can take steps to prevent them from infecting your nails. Prevention is especially important after you’ve been treated for a fungal nail infection, as the recurrence rate is high. According to this website: , here are basic tips for practicing good nail hygiene:

• Keep your hands and feet dry. Towel yourself off thoroughly after swimming, bathing, or showering—including between your toes.
• Keep your nails short and clean. Trim your toenails straight across.
• Don’t pick at the skin around your nails. Those cracks are just invitations for fungi to enter.
• Wear absorbent socks—ones that wick moisture away from your feet. And change your socks frequently.
• Remove your shoes whenever possible, but especially after exercising. Wear open-toe shoes when appropriate.
• Use an antifungal spray or powder in your shoes.
• Wear flip-flops or other shoes when visiting public showers, gyms, and swimming areas.
• Wear rubber gloves when washing dishes or doing other tasks that require putting your hands in water. Be sure, though, to dry the gloves thoroughly by turning them inside out.
• Don’t share nail clippers, nail files, shoes, or socks.
• If you get manicures and pedicures, make sure the salon you patronize sterilizes its instruments between customers—or, better yet, bring your own instruments.

Often times, it is hard to eliminate nail fungus once you have it, it will cost you time and money. Doctors advise their patients that it is always better to be cautious and try to prevent it. Having this type of ailment not only affects your health but also your psychological and psychosocial development. Being cautious about your health is very important. Nails that are infected with fungus not only look terrible, they can also interfere with whatever you are doing on a daily basis.

You might think that having nail fungus is nothing serious; but once it affects you and the ailment becomes severe, that’s when you may regret not having it treated during its early stage of development. Once the situation becomes worse, the harder it is for the ailment to get cured. It will cost you not just large amount of money since the treatment and its prices varies, but it will also give you more stress than you can even imagine. See your doctor if you feel you may be experiencing nail fungus, and do yourself a favor by seeking early treatment.

Until next time.

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