Nail fungus, commonly referred to as onychomycosis, occurs when the skin of your toes or fingers becomes damaged by the growth of microscopic fungi called dermatophytes. The symptoms associated with this condition are often very subtle and easy to miss, making it important to take notice of any changes in your nail health as soon as possible. While most people only think about nail fungus in the summer months when wearing sandals, toe fungus can actually strike anytime that the climate and moisture levels are right and you’re wearing shoes that trap moisture against your feet. Here’s what you need to know about nail fungus, including how it’s diagnosed and treated.
What Causes a Fungal Infection on Your Finger and Toenails?
Different fungi can cause fungal infections on fingernails. The most common culprits are Microsporum (most frequently), Epidermophyton, and Trichophyton. Fungal infection on a fingernail is not an inherited condition, nor is it contagious. Fungal infections are more common in people with weakened immune systems, people who have diabetes or peripheral vascular disease, and those who have a nail injury. Fungal infections of toenails are caused by a variety of conditions. These include athlete’s foot, which affects most people at some point in their lives; severe humidity and warmth (particularly when accompanied by inadequate ventilation); trauma to the nail or surrounding tissue; or an inherited predisposition to fungal growth on nails. People with diabetes have a higher risk of acquiring fungal infections on their toes because high glucose levels can make tissues more susceptible to infection.\
How Do You Know If You Have One?
Fungal infections of nails can be hard to identify, especially if you’re not an expert. If your nail is discolored or thickened, cracking or flaking, itchy or painful, see a doctor; he or she can look at your nails and let you know if they look like fungal infection symptoms. A dermatologist may even be able to grow out a sample of fungus and test it for certain types of fungus that are more likely to cause disease.
Who Gets Them and Why?
Anyone can get a nail fungus, but those who are more likely to get them include men and women between 40 and 60 years old and diabetic patients. Typically, fungus can be caused by athlete’s foot, which spreads to fingernails through shared surfaces or contaminated tools in dirty salons. Sometimes, an injury on your foot will allow an infection from bacteria to enter your body. If you have diabetes, you might be at higher risk for nail fungus because of nerve damage in your feet that causes a lack of sensation; without feeling pain in your feet when something is wrong with them, it’s easy for infections like these to spread unnoticed.
Are There Any Treatments Available?
Yes, there are. There are several over-the-counter treatments available to combat nail fungus, such as Zetaclear and Lamisil AT. Your doctor may also prescribe you a stronger cream or oral medication, but these can come with side effects. Other natural remedies for nail fungus include apple cider vinegar and tea tree oil. Unfortunately, nail fungus can often be treated with expensive and sometimes invasive procedures that require trips to specialized dermatologists or podiatrists. Whether it’s laser therapy, fungal injections or some other pricey technique, these options are only available to those who have access to private health care.
Many people go to nail salons to have their nails shaped, painted, or both. While salons usually provide clean tools and conditions, they can be breeding grounds for various infections and illnesses. Doing your nails yourself can help you to avoid them. The nail fungus that many people know about occurs when your feet get damp from wearing shoes all day or from walking in puddles. However, there are other risks associated with nail salons. For example, it is possible to contract viruses such as hepatitis B by sharing manicure tools with others who may carry these viruses on their hands or skin. You can also pick up diseases such as HIV if you receive a cut while having your nails done at home or at a salon. To be safe vet your salon and ask them their best practice when it comes to cleaning tools.
Are you suffering from a nail fungus? Let us know in the comment section!