Have you noticed your nail health is deteriorating, and you were thinking of trying a nail fungus treatment? It is great that you pay attention to the signs your body is sending to let you know that something is threatening its well-being.
However, you shouldn’t rush and take pills or apply ointments without a clear diagnosis and a complete picture of your health problem. If you suspect some fungus is threatening your nail health, the first step is to learn as much as possible on the subject.
If your suspicions are correct, the nail fungus treatment will depend on the type of fungus, the severity of the infection, and many other factors related to your lifestyle and general health condition. Keep reading to discover what nail fungus is, how it appears, how to prevent and treat it, and other helpful information.
What Is Nail Fungus?
Nail fungus, also known as onychomycosis, or tinea unguium, is a condition that affects over 5% of the population. It becomes more prevalent with age, infection incidence ranging from 20% in adults over 60 to 50% in adults over 70. It involves an infection of the toenails or fingernails. Sometimes, the infection also spreads to the areas between the toes (tinea pedis).
Symptoms and Signs That You Need Nail Fungus Treatment
The first signs of infection are small white or yellow spots under one’s fingernails or toenails. Unfortunately, these signs often go unnoticed. Most people begin to worry when the infection has already spread, causing the discoloration of the entire nail. Other symptoms include:
- Nail thickening
- Brittle, ragged or crumbly nail edges
- Distorted nail shape
- Dull, non-shiny nail surface
- Dark nail color, from the debris building up underneath
- The nail begins to detach itself from the nail bed and develops a foul odor (the condition is known as onycholysis).
Depending on the severity of the infection, you may experience only some or all of these symptoms. They could be mild and bearable, or painful and prompt immediate nail fungus treatment. Sometimes, the infection only affects one nail. Other times, it spreads to other nails as well.
Besides the physical symptoms described above, nail fungus is unsightly and makes nail care very difficult. It is up to you whether you try some basic home care measures and remedies, or consult a dermatologist.
Just keep in mind that, left untreated, the fungus could spread to other nails, and infect the nails of other family members as well. Even if your nail fungus treatment is successful, the condition could return without proper prevention measures in place.
Main Nail Fungus Causes and Risk Factors
The infection is usually attributed to dermatophyte fungi, yeasts, and molds. Fungi are microorganisms that thrive in dark, moist, and warm environments (swimming pools, showers, locker rooms, sauna, etc.).
Skin contact is enough to cause an infection. The fungus invades the skin through small, invisible cuts or nail bed separations, and begins to spread. Since your toenails are confined in the dark, moist, and warm environment of your shoes, they are more vulnerable.
The blood flow is lower in the toes, preventing your immune system from detecting and fighting the infection. As a result, most nail fungus treatment options available refer to the toes, and most inquiries doctors and pharmacies receive refer to toenail fungus treatment.
Besides the presence of the fungus itself, other factors increase your risks of developing nail fungus. Here are the most important:
- Age (blood flow decreases with age, exposure to fungi increases, and nail growth slows down)
- Heavy perspiration (perhaps linked to excess weight, physical effort, or some condition)
- Gender and genetic inheritance (men are more predisposed to women, and a family history or nail fungus increases the risk of infection)
- Jobs and activities that involve standing and work in moist environments (sports, bartending, housekeeping, etc.)
- Socks and footwear that don’t allow your feet to breathe and don’t absorb perspiration
- Sharing the bed, bathroom, or pool with someone who has nail fungus (even when they’re under nail fungus treatment)
- Walking barefoot on damp communal surfaces (shower rooms, swimming pools, gyms, etc.)
- Athlete’s foot
- Minor nail or skin injuries or conditions (rashes, allergies, dermatitis, psoriasis, etc.)
- Diabetes, cardiovascular problems, weak immunity, Down syndrome (especially in children), etc.
Why Seek Nail Fungus Treatment Immediately?
Left untreated, nail fungus infections may aggravate, become painful, and cause irreversible nail damage. The infection may spread and degenerate, especially if you have weak immunity due to medication, diabetes or some other health conditions.
Needless to say, the sooner you detect and treat the infection, the easier getting rid of the fungus will be. If the infection is mild, and you catch it early, you can try home remedies, like trimming and thinning your nails. If you already experience pain and discomfort, you should seek specialized help.
The first step of a natural, home-based nail fungus treatment is exposing your nails to sunlight, and applying hydrogen peroxide or essential oils (oregano and tea tree oil). If these don’t work, you can look for a nail fungus treatment over the counter, at a local pharmacy or online.
Your last and most viable solution is to consult your physician and have them refer you to a dermatologist or podiatrist. To make sure you get the best treatment for your particular case, don’t hesitate to list all your symptoms, any relevant personal information (recent major stress sources or life changes), and any meds you are on (including vitamins and supplements).
Before they can prescribe the corresponding nail fungus treatment, your doctor will most likely examine your nails. They may also take samples from under your nails for a lab analysis meant to identify the fungus responsible for the infection.
Psoriasis can display symptoms similar to fungal infections. Some yeasts and bacteria can cause nail infections as well. Even if the infection is fungal, the doctor still needs to determine whether the cause is Candida or some other fungus, in order to recommend the best nail fungus treatment.