Toenail Fungus - Why Me?
People can be afflicted with toenail fungus for months without knowing it. Nail fungi can lie in wait for quite some time until the right conditions for a full fledge invasion prevail. Once toenail fungus has gotten a hold, it can be very difficult to eradicate.
The first sign of nail fungus is usually a yellow or brownish discoloration of the toenail, most likely on the big toe. Next, the nails become thick and dry with layers of material accumulating under and along the side of the nail. The nails can become brittle or break easily, or might even begin to crumble. Nail fungal infections should not be confused with discolored nails that are natural in some people. A podiatrist or foot specialist can certainly differentiate and make a diagnosis on sight.
These types of fungal infections are most likely contracted by walking barefoot in public places or as a complication of athlete's foot. The causative factors, fungus spores, attach themselves to the keratin cells which make up the nails. They ingest the keratin and proceed to live within it.
Prevention is the best way to treat nail fungus infections, and preventive measures include:
- avoid walking barefoot in public places, especially in places such as showers, locker rooms and pools, where moist conditions are present
- always dry feel thoroughly after a bath or shower
- do not bite or pick at fingernails, toenails or the skin surrounding them. Even a small cut alongside a nail can allow bacteria or fungi to enter and cause an infection
- do not expose nails to harsh chemicals or detergents
- trim fingernails regularly, weekly if necessary. Cut nails straight across, and not too short. The best time for trimming toenails is after bathing while they are still soft
- never, never trim cuticles. This can serve as an entry for bacteria and fungi
- avoid using nail strengtheners or artificial nails. Both can produce adverse reactions and/or infections beneath the nail beds.
- wear properly fitting shoes. Use antifungal powders and sprays for your shoes, and air them out in the sun frequently.
The diagnosis of fungal nail infections is usually made by a physician through microscopic identification of fungi in nail scrapings. This also rules out the presence of other nail diseases.
There are no tried and true treatments to get rid of nail fungi. You can use various creams, ointments or solutions, or prescribed systemic antifungal medicines. However, nothing has been proven to cure the fungal nail infections. These medicines do seem to control the spread of the disease to surrounding skin.
It takes a long time - 6 to 12 months - for new nails to grow that are free from infection. The fungus may return, but there is the possibility the new nails may be free of infection.
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