All About Treating Nail Fungal Infection the Right Way
A fungal infection or Onychomycosis affects the keratin or the hard material that the nail is made up of. It can affect either a part of or the entire nail including the nail bed, nail plate as well as the nail root. Toenail fungus progresses very slowly and can lead to discoloration, thickening or distortion of the nail. Fingernails are less afflicted by this condition than toenails.
Symptoms of Fungal Infection
The most common symptom of fungal infection is thickening and discoloration of the nail and it may turn white, yellow, green or black. Initially, there is no evident pain but the nail/s look ugly. In most cases, there are no other complications related to fungal infection. However, leaving it untreated can cause a certain amount of discomfort and pain, although this is pretty rare.
What Causes It?
In a majority of cases, it is the dermatophyte fungi that cause toenail fungal infections and this is the same fungus that causes athlete’s foot. The latter is a skin infection which affects the skin that lies between the toes and it might spread over to the toenails as well. If you are suffering from a mild case of fungal infection, treatment may not be required, but you risk the chance of it spreading to other nails as well. In certain instances, some simple self-case methods are very effective in clearing the infection.
The Right Treatment
If you suffer from a fungal infection, avoid wearing footwear that covers your toes. Clip your nails short and maintain high levels of foot hygiene. These may seem like very basic and simple measures but they are effective in keeping fungal infections at bay. If you have diabetes, you might have a suppressed immune system, which can lead to more serious infections that might spread beyond your feet. If the infection is severe, your doctor might recommend toenail fungus treatment such as:
- Topical medication– Though there are many ointments and over the counter nail creams available, it is best to consult a doctor who will prescribe the correct antifungal cream for you. You will also have to ensure that your feet are kept clean and dry at all times. These topical medications are not effective in treating all kinds of fungal infections and your doctor might prescribe some medication that has to be taken in combination.
- Oral Medication– Based on the severity of the infection, your doctor may prescribe a combination of cream application oral medications. Medication might be required if you have diabetes or a history of cellulitis or if there is discomfort or pain in the infected nail. These medications will help in the healthy growth of the nail and the infected part will slowly be replaced with a healthy nail. The foot should not be exposed to any warm or moist conditions.
- Antifungal lacquer– For moderate infections, you might be prescribed an antifungal polish that has to be applied to the nails. This lacquer is slow acting and several months of application might be required for complete healing to take place.
- Surgery– In case of very severe infection, the doctor might suggest that the nail has to be removed. Typically, a new nail will grow in its place, though it might take almost a year to grow to its full length. In some cases, ciclopirox might be used in the treatment of the nail bed, along with the surgery.
- Photodynamic/ Light Therapy– In this therapy, the nail is first treated with an acid and then irradiated with intense light. But this is a considerably new treatment and might not be available everywhere.
Nail fungal infections can be a very serious health risk for individuals suffering from diabetes & those who have weakened immune systems like individuals who have had organ transplants or those who have AIDS or leukaemia. If you suffer from any of symptoms of nail infection, seek timely medical care.
The right fungal infection treatment, at the right time can prevent any kind of complications. Especially in countries like India, which have a tropical climate, maintaining foot hygiene becomes all important. Ensuring that you wear clean and dry socks and shoes that allow the feet to breathe can go a long way in preventing toenail fungal infection.
Have you ever experienced any nail fungal infection before? Do you know how you got it and what treatment worked for you? Share your thoughts.