What is Fungal Nail Infection?
Fungal nail infections can affect any nail however, they are most commonly found in the toenails, as enclosed shoes help provide a warm, damp environment on which fungi thrive.
The infection is caused by mainly dermatophyte fungi, although other moulds and yeasts can attack nails that are already damaged.
Fungal nail infections occur when some of the fungi spores penetrate the layer between the skin of the nail bed and the nail above.
Fungi that cause Athletes Foot can also move into the nails and is a common cause of infection.
Signs of Fungal Nail Infection
Spotting the signs of fungal nail infection early is the key to better treatment outcomes, and if treatment is commenced, will reduce the risk of the infection spreading to other nails.
Signs to look for:
- White or yellow spots in the middle of the nail.
- Discoloration around the edges of the nail.
- Thickening of the nail.
- The nail may become brittle or break, it may also lift and separate from the nail bed.
- The nails can become uncomfortable when they are pressing against shoes.
Treatment of Fungal Nail Infection.
Treatment of fungal nail infection can be successful, but it can take up to a year for the nail to grow out, so patience is needed.
There are 2 main methods of treatment:
- Topical antifungal medication – over-the-counter products that can be bought from a pharmacy.
- Oral antifungal medication – this is only available from your doctor on prescription but is not suitable for all people.
Nail infections that are caused by molds and yeasts can be much more resistant to treatment, and so it may be necessary to try a few products before you find one that is effective.
Over-the-counter topical antifungal medication which can be purchased from a pharmacy, normally contains antifungals such as Terbinafine or Amorolfine, and normally have to be applied either daily or weekly according to the instructions for the brand.
If over-the-counter topical antifungal medication does not work, then your doctor may be able to provide oral antifungal medication, after firstly obtaining nail clippings of the infected nails, so they can be tested to identify exactly what fungi are present. This will allow the prescription of the most suitable antifungal medication.
When the nails have become thickened due to fungal infection, a Podiatrist can help reduce the thickness of the nails, which will also help with the penetration of topical antifungal medication into the nail.
Prevention of Fungal Nail Infection.
- Good foot hygiene is key to preventing Fungal Nail Infection, including daily foot washing.
- Always dry feet after washing, particularly between the toes, you should dab them dry rather than rubbing them.
- Always use a separate towel for your feet and wash it regularly, and do not share it with other members of your household.
- Try to reduce the amount of moisture between the toes and the feet generally, by wearing socks made of either cotton or a moisture-wicking material and change them daily.
- Avoid tight-fitting footwear that makes the feet hot and encourages more sweating.
- Do not walk around barefoot, especially in places like changing rooms and showers, it is sensible to wear a pair of flip flops.
When to Consult a Podiatrist
If you need help or advice regarding treatment for Fungal Nail Infection, you should consult a Podiatrist who is registered with the HCPC (Health and Care Professions Council) which is the national regulating body, or your GP. The HCPC online register is available at https://www.hcpc-uk.org