Nail Fungus – Causes and Treatments

Nail Fungus is known as onychomycosis, or ringworm of the nails. This is an infection that strikes both finger nails as well as toenails, but most often the latter. You will first notice your nails looking yellowish and thickened. It may take a while to realize something is not quite right, particularly if you, like most women, paint your toenails. Men who wear closed shoes almost all their waking hours are also at risk. Your family history might play a part too, as nail fungus tends to run in the family. It is found to be more prevalent in older patients. If one has had an earlier trauma to the toe, it is quite likely to get infected. Too many hours spent in fitness activities can lead to fungus problems, as well as public swimming baths.

Most often the culprit is tight closed shoes. This toenail fungus simply loves the dark and moist environment inside closed shoes. Later the toenails start to curl and thicken and irritate in shoe gear, making it painful to walk. The affected nails gradually become chalky, thicker, and flaky. Later the yellowish nail may just fall off, leaving whitish debris on the exposed nail bed.

What is the organism that causes this unsightly disease? Onychomycosis is caused by dermatophytes in the cooler climes and candida in hot and humid countries. Treatment of toenail fungus is a long drawn out process as the infection lies underneath the nail, which is a hard place to reach. Therefore it normally takes six months to a whole year to cure this fungus effectively.

Your podiatrist will judge if the infection is superficial or deep. For the superficial cases a course with nail lacquer with either amorofine or ciclopirox is effective. The nail paint needs to be applied nightly. This should be done for seven days, then wiped off, and then the whole process is to be repeated.

For a more deep-seated infection the patient needs to take oral anti fungal medicine such medication. The trouble with oral medications such as Lamisil are the side effects. A podiatrist will take blood tests called LFTs before starting this medication. This is to be certain that there are no signs of liver damage before the initiation of treatment. Liver function tests will be taken right through the treatment course to make sure there is no harm to the liver. Lamisil can sometimes cause heart problems too and has to be used under strict medical supervision.

Another method of treatment that is gaining popularity is the use of laser therapy. Either a YAG (also used in cataract operations) is used or the newer “LAFT” method.

People looking for natural remedies turn to thyme oil, grapefruit seed extract or tea tree oil. Recent studies with snake-root leaf extract have shown it to be highly effective.

To prevent this infection from attacking your nails, try to keep your nails short. Change socks frequently and alternate shoes with ones that are ventilated. Be vigilant at salons where it is possible to pick up an infection from instruments that have not been carefully sterilized.