Nail Fungus

Nail fungus infections, also referred to as onychomycosis, are extremely common. Approximately 12% of all Americans suffer from nail fungus. Toenail fungus infections are much more common than fingernail fungus, and are more difficult to treat. This is because fungi thrive in dark, warm and moist environments.

The nail provides the fungus with a strong protective barrier. This barrier makes it difficult for medications to kill the fungus. For this reason, prevention is very important.

The older you are, the more likely you will get nail fungus. Children almost never get nail fungus. Approximately 25% of people age 40 are affected, and about 50% of all people aged 70 and older.

Nail fungus treatment should begin as soon as possible. The longer you wait, the worse the condition will become, and the more difficult to treat.

Causes of nail fungus:

Nail fungus occurs when fungal organisms are able to get under the nail. This usually occurs when there is a break in the nail itself, or a separation between the nail and the nail bed. Common causes of nail fungus include:

  • The toenail can become weakened from wearing shoes that are too tight. Also, wearing the same shoes every day increases the chances of getting toenail fungus.

  • Trimming the nails too short can result in small cuts allowing the fungus to penetrate. Nail biting can also weaken nails and damage protective layers.

  • The fungi that cause toenail fungus are very common in damp public areas. Examples include public showers, locker rooms, and pools. Never walk barefoot in these areas.

  • Jobs or hobbies that cause your hands or feet to be wet/damp for long periods of time can contribute to the growth of fungus. Try to keep your hands and feet as dry as possible. Wear protective gloves and change your socks often.

  • Fingernail polish also contributes to nail fungus. When you wear nail polish, the nails are not able to breathe. This causes more moisture to be trapped on or under the nail, and helps fungal organisms to thrive. Once you get nail fungus, polish makes it more difficult to get rid of.

Symptoms of nail fungus:

  • The nails often become yellowish, and can have white patches. Sometimes the nails can turn black or brown.

  • The nails can become brittle and flaky.

  • Debris can collect under the nail.

  • The nails smell bad.

  • Toenail fungus can be very painful. It can cause the shape of the nail to change, and make it difficult to wear shoes.

  • Pain from a toenail fungus infection can make it difficult to walk.

  • The nail can become separated from the nailbed.

  • If not treated, the symptoms often get worse.

While getting nail fungus is very common, a little prevention can go a long way. The following common sense tips will greatly reduce the chances of getting finger nail or toenail fungus.

  • Wear shoes and socks that are comfortable and not too tight. They should allow the feet to breathe to prevent excess moisture.

  • Keep your feet clean, and wash them regularly. Make sure to thoroughly dry them after washing.

  • Nails need to be kept properly trimmed. Do not cut them to short, or leave them too long. Its best to cut them straight across so the nail comes to the end of the toe.

  • Wear sandals or other protective shoes in locker rooms or public showers.

  • Daily use of a high quality foot powder. Talcum is usually best.

  • Avoid tight hosiery. It usually contributes to moisture.

  • Regularly disinfect nail clippers and any other pedicure tools.

  • If you get manicures or pedicures, use your own tools.

  • If you have athlete's foot or jock it, treat it immediately. Otherwise it may spread to other areas of the body.

As we mentioned earlier, nail fungus treatment should be started as soon as possible. The longer you wait, the harder it is to treat. Also, waiting can allow the fungus to spread.

One of the biggest mistakes we see in nail fungus treatment is using a home remedy. Many people spend months or years trying different home remedies, only to find that their condition has worsened. Home remedies such as bleach, vinegar, rubbing alcohol, Vicks VapoRub and Listerine are rarely effective. Using bleach can be dangerous as it can damage live tissues.

Prescription nail fungus treatments include Sporanox, Lamisil, Griseofulvin and Penlac. Unfortunately all of these treatments have limited effectiveness, and can have severe life threatening side effects. For this reason, many people choose to live with nail fungus rather than treat it.

Fortunately, there are other treatments that are both effective and safe.

There are situations where self-treatment of nail fungus is inappropriate:

If following the treatment guidelines above with the recommended medication doesn't resolve the suspected fungal infection, consult with a doctor. Examination and further testing may reveal something completely unexpected.

Additional Reading:
We have more informational pages on onychomycosis, which is the scientific name for fingernail or toenail fungus. Additional topics include home remedy for toe nail fungus, and toenail fungus cures. We recently added a toenail fungus remedies section, which is very informative. For more home remedies, take a look at our toenail fungus home cure page, and the vinegar cure toe nail fungus area. Finally for traditional nail fungus treatment information, take a look at our toe and finger nail fungus pages. Be sure to check back often for new pages on medications and home remedies for nail fungus.

More than nail fungus on our Self Care Home Page



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