What is Fungal Nail?
Fungal Nail or Onychomycosis refers to a fungal infection that occurs in the finger nails or toe nails as a result of an over-growth of fungi in the nails or under them. It is one of the many fungal infections that are capable of invading the body and causing pain and discomfort.
Fungi are micro-organisms generally present on the human body just like bacteria. However, when these organisms stay long enough on the host that they over-grow, they are capable of causing infection. Fungi exist and thrive in warm and moist environments. Once they find this safe-haven environment, they begin to grow and populate. Such situations give rise to fungal infections. Other fungi infections common with human beings are: Athlete’s Foot, Ringworm and Jock Itch.
How Fungal Nail Can be Contacted
There are many ways that fungal nail can develop on the body. Firstly, from the fungi that are already present in or on the body. In this case, it means that the conditions for fungal growth on the finger nails or toe nails are rife, leading to over-growth and over-population of fungi, with the attendant consequence of an infection. A study by the American Academy of Dermatology revealed that fungal nail is more common on the toe nails than the finger nails because the toes are covered by shoes most of the time. That means the environment around the toes is warm and moist most of the time, helping fungi to grow.
Secondly, coming into contact with someone who is infected can cause fungi infections to be transmitted between one person and another. Coming in contact with an infected person may be by sharing items like manicure and pedicure tools or razor blades used to trim toe or finger nails by the infected person.
Risk Factors for Fungal Nail
There are many possible scenarios through which a person has a high risk of being infected by fungi in the nails. Some of them are highlighted below:
- Fixing Artificial Nails: The risk of using infected equipment to fix artificial nails is real. If this happens, fungal nail is imminent.
- Using a public swimming pool regularly: Frequently swimming in a public pool or other bodies of water increases the risk of fungal infections. One of it may be fungal nail
- Injuries in the nails or around the skin surrounding the nails: Injuries that are not professionally treated in the nails or around them can lead to fungal infection.
- A weak immune system: An immune system that is weak and incapable of fighting off infections exposes the body to fungal nail.
- Frequent wearing of toe-closed shoes, especially for long periods: This is mostly common with men because they wear toe-closed shoes more and for longer periods. The environment created around the toe nails in such a situation is good for fungal growth.
- Diabetic Patients: One of the issues with diabetic patients is the inability of wounds to heal. This exposes them to regular fungal attacks.
Signs and Symptoms of Fungal Nail
- The nails will have crumbling corners or tips, referred to medically as distal onychomycosis
- Yellow spots, often appearing at the bottom of the nail
- Smelly nails; foul odour usually coming from the infected nail
- Nails that look distorted and can easily fall off the nail bed
- Flaking white areas visible on the nail’s surface
- The nail scales visibly
- Loss of nails whereby nails fall off the fingers or toes
How to Prevent Fungal Nail
The good news is that fungal infections like fungal nail can be prevented. Here are some tips to prevent fungal nail:
- Keep the Nails Trim and Tidy: This is particularly important to prevent fungi lurking around your fingers or toes for too long. You should keep your nails trim and clean to prevent micro-organisms from setting up a dwelling place there.
- Avoid Injuries around the Nail Area: It is good to avoid injuries around the area of the nails. However, if you are injured there, fast and professional treatment should be sought so that such injuries heal fast.
- Wash Your Hands with Soap Regularly: You may not know when you have made contact with an infected person. It is recommended that you wash your hands with soap regularly to keep the fingers free of micro-organisms.
- Avoid Walking Bare-Footed: Walking bare-footed, especially in public places increases the risk of contacting fungal nail in the toe nails. You should endeavour to wear your shoes at all times in such places.
- Use Sterilized Manicure and Pedicure Equipment: The next time you visit your salon for manicure and pedicure, you should ask what the sterilization process of their equipment is. This should give you a hint if you are safe from the risk of fungal nail or not. If the explanation is not convincing, you may want to try another salon or better still, purchase your own manicure and pedicure set.
Treating Fungal Nail
If you notice any of the symptoms of fungal nail, rather than purchase unreliable over-the-counter drugs, visit your doctor and make the complaint. The doctor would recommend oral anti-fungal solutions or topical creams that can be effective.
Fungal nail attacks the finger and toe nails. You can effectively prevent them. However, if you notice any of the symptoms, consult your doctor.