Nail fungus is a common condition that affects adults and children alike. If left untreated, it can worsen over time and spread to other nails. In severe cases, or as the condition worsens over time, the fungal infection will penetrate deeper, causing your nails to discolor, thicken, and crumble along the edges.
Some common symptoms associated with nail fungus are:
- Thickened nails
- White/yellowing nails
- Oddly shaped nails
- Buildup of debris under the nails
- Brittle or broken nails
Fungal nail infections are caused by the presence of dermatophytes, as well as mold or yeast in some cases. These fungi are widespread, and exposure is common. Keeping good hygiene and the skin barrier intact is beneficial, but it is not always sufficient. Any manipulation of the cuticle can also predispose patients to nail fungus. This can allow fungi to enter the nail and eventually the nail matrix, which is responsible for nail growth. Patients with poor circulation and/or weakened immune systems are also more vulnerable to fungal infections.
Having fungus on the skin or athlete’s foot can also predispose patients to developing nail fungus.
Prevention and Treatment
When it comes to fungal infections of the nails, it is important to understand that prevention is just as important as treatment. When a fungal issue is treated, unless you take the steps to prevent further infections, it will likely recur.
The best means of preventing such a nail disorder or foot fungus is to keep good hygiene habits, but not to disrupt the skin barrier in the process. This entails washing, but with modest amounts of soap and to make sure moisturizing is a regular part of one’s routine. Sweat can also disrupt the skin barrier, thus it is important to change your socks after working out, anytime your feet become overly sweaty. Trying to wear shoes that are lightweight and well-ventilated is also important.
In order to treat nail fungus, new topical medications have efficacy, but traditionally oral medications are required. There are many preventative approaches that are important too, once the fungus has been eradicated.