How Do Health Care Professionals Diagnose A Fungal Nail Infection
Fungal nail infection can be identified by its appearance. However, other conditions and infections can cause problems in the nails that look like fungal nail infection. Fungal nail infection must be confirmed by laboratory tests before beginning treatment, because treatment is long, expensive, and does have some risks.
How Do You Get Rid Of Stubborn Nail Fungus
Treatment in these situations usually involves the topical medications mentioned earlier, as well as an oral antifungal drug, such as terbinafine or itraconazole. These drugs help a new nail grow free of infection, slowly replacing the infected part. You typically take this type of drug for six to 12 weeks.
Is Toenail Fungus Really Such A Problem
If youre thinking you can just live with it, we dont advise letting toenail fungus go untreated. Its an insidious problem, and without treatment, you have to deal with the discomfort of the nail as well as feeling self-conscious about its unsightliness.
If you let a nail fungus infection go for too long, several problems emerge. The infected nail can become misshapen and increasingly separated from your nail bed. Itching and pain are unpleasant side effects if theyre too severe, you can have trouble wearing shoes or walking.
You need to be especially attentive to treating toenail fungus if your immune system is compromised. If youre living with diabetes, its critical not to ignore the fungus. Even a mild infection like this can snowball into something more serious, like cellulitis, a severe bacterial skin infection.
Another problem is that untreated fungus eventually can spread to either neighboring toenails or to the skin of your foot, causing athletes foot. Possibly the worst outcome of untreated nail fungus is needing to have your nail surgically removed.
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Who Gets Nail Fungus
People who live in hot and humid climates have an increased risk of infection due to their living environment. Your medical situation also plays a big part in whether such a fungus can thrive on your body. Those who have the following conditions are more susceptible:
- Type 2 Diabetes
- Those Who Frequent Gyms, Spas, or Swimming Pools
What Causes A Fungal Nail Infection
Fungal nail infection is caused by three main classes of organisms: fungi that infect hair, skin, and nails and feed on nail tissue , yeasts, and non-dermatophyte molds. All three classes cause the very similar early and chronic symptoms or appearances, so the visual appearance of the infection may not reveal which class is responsible for the infection. Dermatophytes are, by far, the most common causes of fungal nail infection worldwide. Yeasts cause 8% of infections, and non-dermatophyte molds cause 2% of fungal nail infections.
- The dermatophyte Trichophyton rubrum is the most common fungus causing distal lateral subungual onychomycosis and proximal subungual onychomycosis .
- The dermatophyte Trichophyton mentagrophytes commonly causes white superficial onychomycosis , and more rarely, WSO can be caused by species of non-dermatophyte molds.
- The yeast Candida albicans is the most common cause of chronic mucocutaneous candidiasis of the nail.
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Risk Factors Associated With Toenail Fungus
Certain health conditions and lifestyle factors can make you increasingly vulnerable to developing nail fungus:
Health: You have a greater chance of contracting a fungal nail infection if you suffer from one or more of the following issues:
- Other fungal skin infections, such as athletes foot or ringworm
- Increasingly brittle, crumbly, or ragged nail
- Nail that appears warped or distorted in shape
- Nail that appears dull without any luster
- Dark color, caused by the accumulation of debris under your nail
- Slightly foul odor in the affected area
Are There Home Remedies For Toenail Fungus
The Internet is filled with anecdotal information on how to cure toenail fungus using home remedies. Vinegar is a commonly recommended home remedy. Some people apply various oils such as tea tree oil, coconut oil, essential oils, and oil of cedar leaf to their nails as well. The effectiveness of these home remedies is highly doubtful. Application of household bleach and hydrogen peroxide is also not recommended due to lack of evidence that these treatments work. These agents can also cause unwanted skin irritation. Thickened nails that have been affected by fungus can be difficult to trim. Using topical urea cream will soften the nail and make it easier to trim. These creams do not require a prescription.
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What Is A Fungal Nail Infection
Facts You Should Know About Fungal Nail Infections
Half of all nail disorders are caused by onychomycosis, and it is the most common nail disease in adults. Toenails are much more likely to be infected than fingernails. The incidence of onychomycosis has been increasing and is associated with diabetes, a suppressed immune system, and increasing age. Adults, especially the elderly, are more likely to have onychomycosis than children.
Fungal nail infection is divided into subtypes. The main subtypes of onychomycosis are as follows:
- Distal lateral subungual onychomycosis
- Candidal onychomycosis
What Are Fungal Nail Infection Symptoms And Signs
- Fungal nail infection usually does not cause any symptoms unless the nail becomes so thick it causes pain when wearing shoes. People with fungal nail infection usually go to the doctor for cosmetic reasons, not because of physical pain or problems related to fungal nail infection.
- As the nail thickens, however, fungal nail infection may interfere with standing, walking, and exercising.
- Paresthesia , pain, discomfort, and loss of agility may occur as the disease progresses. Loss of self-esteem, embarrassment, and social problems can also develop.
- Severe cases of Candida infections can disfigure the fingertips and nails.
Symptoms or signs of fungal nail infection based on subtype
Fungal nail infection is divided into subtypes that can be identified based on where the infection appears to be located relative to the structure of the nail.
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Complications Regarding Toenail Fungus
Toenail fungal infections are typically painless or at least start off that way. But without proper self-care and treatment, the condition can spiral into a more severe case of nail fungus, which can be painful and may cause irretrievable damage to your nails.
Moreover, the toenail infection can sprout other serious infections that can spread beyond your feet, particularly if you have a suppressed immune system due to certain medications, diabetes, or other conditions.
Because people with diabetes are already predisposed to reduced blood circulation and nerve supply in their feet, their odds for catching toenail infections as well as bacterial skin infection are quite high.
Thus, it is imperative for people with diabetes to seek professional medical help for any seemingly minor foot injury including a nail fungal infection to avoid any future complications.
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Difficulties With Nail Infections
While many cases of fungus are mild, some become complicated. When issues are severe, the toxins can cause permanent damage to the nail, and you may lose it. The goal is to keep the infection from spreading to other body areas beyond the feet.
The biggest concern is those who have a compromised immune system, which can be dangerous if the infection gets out of control. Those with Type 2 diabetes can often have circulation issues too that affect their feet. This puts you at a greater risk of developing a bacterial skin infection like cellulitis that can be dangerous.
With diabetes, any infection that affects your feet can be a severe complication requiring prompt medical help. While most dont need to be concerned if there is a small dot of yellow or white under the nail, for the diabetic, its a cause for alarm.
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How To Trim Toenails With Fungus
This article was co-authored by . Marta Nagorska is a Nail Technician and Nail Art Blogger based in London, UK. She runs the blog, Furious Filer, where she gives tutorials on nail care and advanced nail art. She has been practicing nail art for over 5 years and graduated from Northampton College with distinction with a Nail Technician and Manicurist degree in 2017. She has been awarded the top spot in the OPI Nail Art Competition.There are 11 references cited in this article, which can be found at the bottom of the page. This article has been viewed 48,865 times.
Fungal infections can thicken your toenails, making them difficult to trim. You might also be worried about spreading the infection to your other nails during trimming. Fortunately, you can make the trimming process safer and easier by choosing the right tools and softening your nails before you trim them. You can also protect your healthy nails by properly disinfecting your nail care tools after each use.
Preventing Toenail Fungus From Spreading
While you can’t avoid contact with the microscopic organisms that cause toenail fungus its present anywhere that is warm, dark, or moist keeping your feet clean and dry and clipping your nails properly can help prevent an infection.
For fungus to grow, there needs to be some type of trauma to the nail where the nail-skin junction, or natural barrier, is disrupted, says Sheth. For example, from a pedicure, ill-fitting shoes, or the repetitive trauma of running or hiking that causes the nail to lift or get pressed on from shoes or boots.
Still, some people are more vulnerable than others, she adds. Some people have it only on one toe or one foot, and some have lived with a partner who has it but they never get it,” Sheth says. “And for some you see it in their entire family. It’s not as straightforward as it seems, and it’s an annoying problem.
If you do get a toenail fungus infection, these measures can help stop it from spreading:
Getting rid of established toenail fungus can be difficult. Successfully eliminating it depends on careful adherence to a treatment plan.
“What happens over time is that the fungus breeds in the nail tissue and goes from being just a little bit on the nail, to a really discolored and thickened nail, to a nail that is totally embedded with fungus,” explains Marlene Reid, a doctor of podiatric medicine in Naperville, Illinois, and a spokesperson for the American Podiatric Medical Association.
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How Can I Prevent Toenail Fungus
Theres no way to guarantee that you wont get toenail fungus. But you can take several steps to help prevent it:
- Avoid going barefoot in communal areas such as hotel rooms / showers, public showers, locker rooms and swimming pools. Most people pick up fungus in these situations. It helps to wear flip flops in these public areas.
- If you have a family member with foot fungus or nail fungus, try to use different shower or wear flip flops in the shower to avoid coming in contact with it.
- Trauma due to accidental or aggressive clipping of the nails can turn into portals of entry for the fungus.
- Clean your nail trimmer before using it.
- Do not tear or rip your toenails on purpose.
- If you have diabetes, follow all foot care recommendations from your healthcare provider.
- Keep your feet dry. Make sure to fully dry your feet after a shower.
- Soak toenails in warm water before cutting them. Or you can cut your nails after a shower or bath.
- Trim toenails straight across .
- Wear shoes that fit correctly. They should not be too loose or tight around the toes.
Are Oral Medications For Nail Fungus Toxic
The newer drugs are unlikely to cause any liver problems in patients without known liver disease. Blood tests are not needed for once-weekly treatment with fluconazole however, people taking longer courses often have their liver function tested before starting the medicine and then retested during the course of treatment. It is important to notify the doctor of all side effects while on the medication. You should tell your doctor of all current medications to prevent potential serious drug interactions.
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The Black Line On Toenail Fungus
A black line on the toenail fungus is called melanonychia.
This means that you have brown or black lines on your toenails.
A black line associated with toenail fungus might be melanoma, but this is usually unlikely.
If the black line extends into your skin, this is called a Hutchinson sign. A Hutchinson sign is much more likely to signal toenail cancer or toenail melanoma relating to your black toenail fungus. This might be something called subungual melanoma.
Black toenail cancer, such as subungual melanoma, is sporadic. Personally, in our clinic, we have seen thousands of black toenails and black lines on toenails. Between all those cases, we have rarely seen toenail melanoma.
But there are cases where we do perform biopsies if the toenail does appear suspicious. A toenail biopsy with a podiatrist can be one of the most effective ways to confirm no melanoma underneath the toenail.
It is essential to always check with your podiatrist and get a biopsy if you are worried about melanoma.
There is no 100% foolproof method to ensure that there is no melanoma underneath her toenail.
Why Does My Nail Fungus Keep Coming Back
A fungal infection starts out small enough usually a white or yellow spot appears on your toenail. All too soon, your entire nail is consumed by the fungus and your neighboring nails become infected, too. This leaves you with crumbling and unsightly toenails that youre forced to hide. These types of infections are notoriously difficult to get rid of, but not impossible, especially if you get the right treatment.
At Neuhaus Foot and Ankle, our team of foot health experts knows all too well how difficult it is to fight toenail fungus once it takes hold. Yet, with the right medical care, as well as patience on your part, we can not only prevail in your current battle against toenail fungus, we can prevent it from recurring in the future.
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If You Have Toenail Fungus Under Your Nails Remember
Once your diagnosis is confirmed, you have several options available to deal with it. You and your podiatrist can decide on the best course for you: anti-fungal pills, medicated nail polish, and/or laser therapy. The reason I prefer laser procedures is that theyre very safe and effective at improving the look of unsightly nails due to fungal infections.
Regardless of which method you use, for lasting results, its important that you follow-through with proper foot hygiene to reduce the risk of getting it again.
Im Dr. Kelly Geoghan, DPM, Board Certified Surgeon and Aesthetic Podiatry Specialist. If youre in the Baltimore area, contact me for an appointment for your personalized plan for flawless feet at:
- Lutherville: 753-4422
- Dundalk: 753-4422
Home Remedies To Get Rid Of Nail Fungus
Although some people may refer to these alternative treatments as quack science, there appears to be a little more to these homemade remedies since many individuals have used them to cure their conditions. However, more research still needs to be conducted on the success rate of home remedies for nail fungus.
Some common and supposedly effective alternative treatments include:
According to Dr. Josh Axe of the Exodus Health Center, apple cidar vinegar not only helps to soothe sunburns, balance pH in the body, manage blood sugar levels, and aid in weight loss, its also an ingredient that contains anti-fungal properties. As such, many sufferers of fungal nail infection have now turned to this healthy food to cure their conditions.
The acidic properties of apple cidar vinegar prevent nail fungus from spreading. At the same time, apple cidar vinegar helps to get rid of dead skin cells while killing bacteria and fungi.
Simply mix it with water in equal parts then soak the infected nails for up to 30 minutes in the solution. Repeat this process daily and pat dry the infected nails after soaking.
Another study conducted by Russian researchers showed that a high concentration of hydrogen peroxide had been instrumental in killing off fungus at the radioactive Chernobyl site.
For this remedy, one should simply apply lemon juice on the infected nail for about 30 minutes before rinsing off with warm water.
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How Do Dermatologists Diagnose Nail Fungus
To find out if a patient has nail fungus, a dermatologist examines your nails and nearby skin. Its important to check the skin because the fungus can spread. You may already have a skin infection caused by fungus like athletes foot.
To get rid of the infection, you will need to treat all infected areas.
Before giving you the diagnosis, your dermatologist may also take some samples. Collecting a bit of debris from beneath a nail, trimming off part your nail, or scraping off a bit of skin can be very helpful. In a lab, these samples can be examined under a microscope to find out whats causing the problem.
Are you hiding an infected nail with nail polish?
Be sure to ask your dermatologist if you can wear nail polish while treating nail fungus.