Toenail fungus, medically known as onychomycosis or tinea unguium, is an infection that enters nail cracks and skin cuts. It can make your nails become thicker, distorted and discolored. It can also cause foot pain, discomfort, and permanent damage to your nails. Fungal infections typically develop gradually, thus any sudden change in the appearance of your nail can be difficult to notice at the beginning.
What causes fungal nails and the risk factors?
Fungus is normally present in the body. The overgrowth of fungi in the nails can cause fungal infections to develop. Men get fungal nail infections more commonly than women, and the older you get, the higher the chance of you getting infected. It is because poorer blood circulation, as well as thickening and slowly growing nails are part of the normal aging process. People who have diabetes, nail injury, and skin injury around the nail are also more likely to develop fungal nail infection.
There are different toenail fungus causes and risk factors, such as:
- Getting pedicure at nail salons that use inadequately cleaned and sanitized clippers, filers, foot tubs and other equipment.
- Fungus caught from suitably warm, moist and wet areas, such as communal showers at gyms or swimming pools.
- Having athlete’s foot, which makes your nail more susceptible to fungal infection.
- Living with a family member who has fungal nails.
How to treat toenail fungus
When it comes to treating fungal nail infections, over-the-counter products are not usually recommended, as they do not produce reliable results. Instead, doctors may prescribe various types of oral anti-fungal medication. Some of the anti-fungal medicines are the following:
- Terbinafine, sold under the brand name Lamisil. It works by reducing the ability of fungi to make steroid alcohols.
- Itraconazole with Sporanox as its common brand name. It helps treat infection by stopping the growth of fungi.
- Fluconazole under the brand name Diflucan. It aids in treating and preventing fungal infections and kills sensitive fungi by interfering with the fungal cell membrane formation
- Griseofulvin, which is available as the brand name drug Gris-PEG. This anti-fungal medication works by interfering with fungal mitosis
You can also try other treatments for fungal nail infections, such as anti-fungal nail lacquer or topical solutions. These are used by brushing onto your nail in the similar way you apply nail polish. You may need to use these medications for a number of months, depending on what type of fungus is causing the nail infection, as well as how severe the infection is.
Different ways to prevent nail fungus
While fungal infections are the most common disease of the toenail, there are several different habits that can help prevent nail fungus. Some of these include:
- Washing your hands and feet on a regular basis and taking good care of your nails by keeping them short and dry.
- Avoiding wearing nothing on your feet in public places.
- Going to a reputable nail salon that surely sterilizes its tools for a manicure or pedicure.
- Wearing socks that absorb sweat.
- Wearing shoes that reduce humidity or open-toe footwear.
- Disposing old shoes or regularly treating them with anti-fungal spray or powder