Fungal nail infections (onychomycosis)

Is it really a fungal nail infection (onychomycosis)?

Fungal nail infections are characterized by thickening and/or discolorations (yellow, brown or white) of the nails. The nail may become brittle or crumble when trimmed and there may be a lifting of the nail from the nail bed. They are estimated to effect around 10% of the population with an increase in that percentage as we age. They are also much more likely to occur in the feet than in the hands.

Fungal nail infections are often unsightly but to date, research has not shown any evidence that fungal nail infections have any negative impacts on the person internally. With that said, nails are made of the same cells as those of your skin and it has been shown that fungal nail infections can cause fungal skin infections such as tinea pedis (see our blog article on tinea here).

The problem with fungal nail infections is that they often resemble damaged nails – see our blog article on thickened toenails here for further information about those.

If you have recently traumatised the nail either through kicking your toe or dropping something heavy on your toe there is a chance that you have merely damaged the nail / nail bed and may not need to treat a fungal nail infection (with that said, it may need podiatry treatment to prevent other complications). If there is no history of trauma however, it is likely you will need to either begin fungal nail treatment or visit with your podiatrist for an assessment and for management.

Please be advised that if you plan on treating it conservatively yourself – antifungal nail lacquers are limited in their capacity to penetrate deep into the nail when the fungus has burrowed into the deeper layers of nail cells. This means your treatment effect can be limited and your infection is at risk of worsening. This is particularly true if your nail is thickened.

Nb. If you are planning on treating it conservatively yourself, we highly recommend that you consider a professional assessment beforehand to confirm that there is actually an infection present and you’re not wasting your efforts.

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Self-management:

  1. Get yourself an Antifungal NAIL solution (don’t make the mistake of thinking you can use a antifungal skin treatment) and apply as directed. Be sure to remove the previous application before re-applying. After all signs of the fungus have disappeared, continue using the product for a further two weeks. This routine must be followed regularly and may take several months to resolve.
  2. Wear shoes with a breathable upper such as leather. All shoes should be aerated daily in a dry environment preferably with direct sunlight to the inner.
  3. Wash the shower with bleach and the sheets every week with an anti-microbial solution such as Napisan.
  4. Dust lightly the insides of your shoes with an antifungal powder or spray every time you remove the shoes.
  5. Socks made out of natural fibres (cotton, wool or bamboo) allow the feet to breathe more easily. These should also be dusted lightly with the antifungal powder or spray and change twice daily. All socks should be soaked in an anti-microbial solution (Napisan) before washing.

To ensure the maximum treatment effect, see your Podiatrist about:

  1. An assessment to confirm the presence of fungal spores.
  2. Taking specimens of the infected nails to be sent off to the laboratory for testing, and for discussions with your doctor about prescription medication (tablets).
  3. Having infected nails trimmed and burred to ensure the maximum amount of infected nail is removed. This allows the greatest penetration of the topical solutions to affect the active fungal infection which often hides deep within the nail.

If you have an active fungal nail infection or are unsure, it is not worth waiting to see if it improves itself. Get in touch today on (02) 4323 9100 or  CLICK HERE TO BOOK ONLINE

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