Nail fungus (onychomycosis)

The fungus damages both part and all of the nail, including the nail plate, bed, and root of the nail. The infection develops slowly, causing the nail to change color, thicken, and bend. Accompanying signs can be skin lesions on the fingers, peeling, itching and redness. Over time, the nails deform so much that they interfere with wearing normal shoes, for example.

The fungus most commonly affects the toenails. The medical name is onychomycosis. It occurs mainly in the elderly and rarely in children. In most cases, mycosis of the nails develops under the influence of the dermatophyte fungus, which also affects the skin. Sometimes the disease is caused by other types of fungus.

In mild cases, nail treatment may not be required. To determine the exact cause of the infection and rule out other possible diseases, a dermatologist will analyze the cut nail. Nail fungus can be cured, but sometimes it takes several months. Antifungal drugs come in the form of pills and nail polish. If the nail fungus is advanced, they resort to surgical removal of the nail. There is also a laser treatment method.

Signs and symptoms of nail fungus

The most common symptom of onychomycosis is discoloration and deformation of the nails. The nail can turn white, black, yellow, or green. Nail fungus is usually not of particular concern at first and in most cases does not have any complications. If the infection is left untreated, pain may develop in the affected nail. Toenail fungus makes walking and wearing shoes difficult, and if your fingernails are affected, writing can be difficult.

As onychomycosis develops, other symptoms will appear, such as: B. the nail can be brittle, loose or flake off completely from the nail bed. If left untreated, the fungal infection can spread to the skin of the fingers and the interdigital spaces. White or yellow spots may appear on the nail bed, and the skin around the nail may peel off. All of these changes can be seen in the photo of the nail fungus.

Causes of Nail Fungus

Photo of toenail fungus

The most common cause of toenail damage is a fungal skin infection such as athlete's foot. Athlete's foot usually develops on the skin between the toes and becomes red, scaly, and itchy. Mushrooms grow and multiply quickly in warm, humid environments. Therefore, prolonged wear of sneakers or sweaty feet increases the chances of developing an infection. Nail decay occurs in about a third of people with athlete's foot.

Toenail fungus can be caused by an infection caused by the yeast Candida, which is also responsible for diseases such as vaginal fungus or stomatitis. The likelihood of developing nail fungus is higher if a person has to wash their hands frequently at work or if they have to keep their hands in water for a long time. Moisture exfoliates the skin at the base of the nail, making it easier for fungi to gain access to the nail. The risk of developing candida nail lesions is higher with certain diseases, namely:

  • Diabetes mellitus or psoriasis;
  • weakened immunity, for example, with HIV;
  • poor general health.

Other factors that can increase your risk of developing nail fungus include:

  • wearing false nails;
  • Damage to the nail;
  • constant nail biting;
  • live in a warm, humid climate;
  • Smoke.

As you age, the likelihood of developing nail fungus increases. Sometimes the fungus appears for no apparent reason.

Nail fungus treatment

Treatment may not be necessary in mild cases. However, if the infection is left untreated, it can spread to other nails and the skin of your toes and hands. In order to get rid of mycosis of the nails as soon as possible, it is important to follow simple rules: abandon shoes with sweaty feet, trim nails and carefully monitor foot hygiene.

With the use of medication, a new healthy nail begins to grow at the base of the nail bed, indicating that treatment is helping. The old affected nail gradually grows back and can be cut off within a few months. If the new nail does not start to grow after 2-3 weeks of treatment, you should consult a doctor. It is impossible to stop using prescribed medication without consulting a doctor, as this can cause the infection to return.

Foot care tips for toenail fungus

Below are tips on how to contain infections during and after treatment.

  • Keep your feet dry and cool. Socks and shoes should allow the feet to "breathe".
  • Wear clean cotton socks and try to use as little sneakers as possible.
  • At the first sign of damage, start treating athlete's foot to prevent the infection from spreading to the nails.
  • Cut nails properly;
  • Use separate scissors to remove the affected areas of the nails to prevent the infection from spreading.
  • Wear appropriately sized shoes with low heels and wide toes.
  • putting on clean slippers in a public shower;
  • If walking is difficult due to thickened toenails, see a dermatologist.
  • It is advisable to get rid of old shoes that may be contaminated with fungal spores.

Medicines for nail fungus

advanced stage of toenail fungus

When an antifungal tablet is taken, the medicine enters the nail in the bloodstream. Most often, terbinafine and itraconazole are prescribed for nail fungus, which are very effective drugs. However, it takes several months of therapy to completely clear the infection. If treatment isn't finished, the infection can return.

The benefit of pills is that they also help to get rid of any related fungal infections like athlete's foot at the same time. Possible side effects of antifungal drugs:

  • A headache;
  • Itching;
  • Loss of taste;
  • Nausea;
  • Diarrhea.

Topical remedies for nail fungus

Antifungal nail polish can be used in place of pills. It's not as effective as pills because the medicine is applied to the affected nail and has to get through it to the site of the infection. Often it is not possible to cover the entire lesion. Treatment of a nail on one hand can take about six months - up to a year on a toenail.

To remove the affected nail plates, you can use a paste that contains 40% urea. This paste is sold without a prescription without a prescription. In the evening, the paste is gently applied to the affected nails, which are then covered with a bandage overnight. In the morning the paste is washed off, and in the evening the nail is filed according to the instructions and the process is repeated. In about two weeks, the nails affected by the fungus will dissolve.

This is a painless procedure that allows you to remove the affected nail plate and remove the fungus. It avoids taking medication and painful surgeries for several months. After the nail plate has dissolved, an antifungal agent should be applied to the nails twice a week to prevent the new nail from becoming infected.

Surgery and laser treatment for onychomycosis

In the case of advanced nail fungus or severe pain, surgical removal of the nail may be recommended when other treatments have failed. After surgery, a new one will grow in the site of the removed nail over time, but this can take a year or more.

Another method of treating advanced nail fungus is laser treatment. The laser emits strong light energy that kills the fungus. Research has shown that this method of treatment is safe and effective. Some studies achieve 90% effectiveness after 3 months. However, there is little data on the long-term effectiveness of this method, as most studies have only followed people for 3 months. For a permanent result, you need to undergo treatment every 3 months for a maximum of one year. This procedure can be costly.

The need for treatment and the choice of medication should be discussed with a dermatologist. Once the infection is cleared, the nail may not return to its original appearance. In these cases, pieces of nail are removed for analysis to determine whether the infection has persisted through the thickness of the nail despite treatment.