NAIL FUNGAL INFECTIONS
Embarrassed by your nails? You are not alone!
Nail fungus, also known as “onychomycosis” by healthcare practitioners, is a fungal infection that affects the nail bed, matrix or plate on both fingernails and toenails. Toenail and fingernail fungus can attack one or more of your nails and usually begins with a white or yellow spot under a nail. As the fungus spreads deeper into the nail, the nail becomes increasingly thick and discoloured.
Nail fungus accounts for 33% of all fungal infections of the skin and about 50% of all nail diseases.
Although up to 14% of adults report nail fungal infections, the incidence may, in reality, be much higher.
There are different types of nail fungal infections.
Each is caused by a different type of fungus, and each manifests itself differently.
Distal subungual onychomycosis
This is the most common form of nail fungus. It attacks the nail bed and underneath the nail plate.
White superficial onychomycosis
Accounting for only 10% of nail fungal infections, this type invades the superficial layers of the nail plate and forms “white islands” on the plate.
Proximal subungual onychomycosis
The least common form of nail fungus in healthy people, this type is more prevalent in patients with a weakened immune system (as a result of HIV or AIDS, or chemotherapy treatments). In this kind of nail fungal infection, the newly formed nail plate is attacked through the proximal nail fold.
This type of nail fungal infection typically occurs in people whose hands are often submersed in water (e.g. dishwashers, window washers, etc.). Previous damage to the nail, caused by an infection or trauma usually precedes this type of nail fungus.
Anatomy of the nail
You likely have a nail fungal infection if one or more of your nails are:
- Brittle, crumbly or ragged
- Distorted in shape
- Dull — with no lustre or shine
- A dark colour — the result of debris accumulated under your nail
- Separated from the nail bed — a condition known as onycholysis, which may cause pain in your toes or fingertips, and be accompanied by a slightly foul odour.
Fungi are microscopic organisms
that can survive without sunlight. While some types of fungi are beneficial, others result in illness and infection.
These microscopic organisms:
- Flourish in warm, moist environments such as swimming pools and showers;
- Are able to penetrate your skin through tiny visible or invisible cuts or through a small space between your nail and nail bed;
- Cause problems when your nails are persistently exposed to warmth and moisture — conditions that promote the growth and spread of fungi.
Why are toenails more affected than fingernails?
Toenails are often trapped in an environment that is ideal for the production of fungi — the inside of your shoes.
The most common risk factor for contracting nail fungus is aging, and this is due to a variety of issues:
Additional risk factors which increase a person’s risk of nail fungus include:
- Being a man – particularly one with a family history of nail fungus
- Perspiring profusely
- Working in a humid or moist environment
- Suffering from psoriasis (a skin condition)
- Wearing socks and shoes that do not breathe and do not absorb perspiration
- Walking barefoot in damp public places
(e.g. swimming pools, locker rooms, public showers)
- Suffering from athlete’s foot
- Having a minor skin or nail injury, a damaged nail, or another infection
- Having diabetes, circulatory problems or a weakened immune system
- Reduced blood
- Increased years of exposure to fungi
- Slower nail growth and thickening of nails, making them more prone to infection
Nail fungus can be treated in different ways.
Treatment options that may help you get rid of nail fungus include both non-prescription and prescription medications.
These medicines are available without a prescription, so you can begin treating nail fungus immediately without waiting to see a doctor. Not all antifungal products available without a prescription are made to treat nail fungal infections. Many are only for fungal infections of the skin. Emtrix® is a non-prescription nail solution that is recommended for the treatment of both toenail and fingernail fungal infections. You can find Emtrix® in the foot care aisle at your local pharmacy.
Emtrix® is easy to use: simply apply the liquid solution once a day to your affected nails and let it dry.
Emtrix® users reported that their treated nails had thinned, were less discoloured and brittle, and were smoother than prior to treatment.
Prescription oral antifungals have to be prescribed by a doctor, and are taken every day in pill form.
Topical prescriptions are applied in the form of a nail lacquer every day. You need to see a doctor and have a prescription to get these products.
Anatomy of the nail
Practicing good hand and foot hygiene can help prevent and reduce the occurence of nail fungus.
Get into the habit of keeping your nails short, dry and clean.
- Be sure to treat athlete’s foot should you contract it
- Always wear footwear (e.g. sandals, flip flops or slippers) in communal areas (e.g. swimming pools, locker rooms, gyms, hotel rooms, etc.)
- Avoid going barefoot whenever possible
- Always keep nails short and trim them straight across
- If you already have a fungal infection, use a different set of nail clippers or files for normal nails
- Regularly disinfect shoes and change socks frequently
- Clean bathroom surfaces (floors, showers) using bleach