Nail fungus is a nail that has been infected with a fungus. The nail is known to discolour white, gray or brown. The fungus crawls under the nail and causes a thickening. Nail fungus is mainly found on foot nails, but also finger nails can become infected. The condition is harmless, but contagious.
Nail fungus is caused by the same fungus that can cause foot fungus (athlete’s foot), so-called dermatofythes. These fungi are found in humid environments, such as showers and bathrooms. Via these rooms, the fungi of one person are transferred to the other person. A person can also infect himself: it often starts with one nail and then more nails get infected. Therefore, it’s wise not to keep walking around for too long with a foot or nail fungus.
The elderly and people with poor immune systems (for example, due to chemotherapy or infection with AIDS) and people with diabetes mellitus are more susceptible to fungal infections.
Nail fungus is initially yellow-white colored. If the nail fungus is not treated, it will eventually discolor yellow-brown. The nail becomes brittle, thick and lumpy. At a later stage, the nail may even completely or partially be released. This is not only inconvenient, but it can also hurt a lot.
In most cases, the general practitioner will instantly recognize a nail fungus. If the doctor isn’t sure, the flakes of the nails will be examined with a microscope. This can often take place during the consultation. Fungi can also be grown from a piece of nail. Then a piece of the nail is sent to the laboratory for further examination.
In most cases, nail fungi don’t need to be treated, because they can do little harm. In people with diabetes, a generally reduced immune system or recurrent erysipelas infections to the leg, treatment of nail fungi can be of importance from a medical point of view.
In case of a fungal infection, the hyphal threads grow throughout the entire thickness of the nail plate. Local antifungal cream medication will therefore work ineffectively against nail fungus. The active substance in the cream penetrates insufficiently into the nail plate. A special nail polish with amorolfine has been developed, which penetrates better into the fungi in the nail. For optimal results, the nail must be pretreated, prior to each treatment, for example with a small file.
Nail fungi can also be treated by taking antifungal tablets. Effectively combating the fungus often requires treatment for several months.
When the treatment has been performed correctly, a healthy, fungus-free nail will emerge at the base of the nail. Since the nails of the feet grow only at a rate of approximately one and a half millimeters per month, it may take up to a year before the infected part of the nail is completely grown. Unfortunately, a new fungal infection can occur over time and the symptoms can start all over again.
- Don’t wash the skin too often with soap.
- Dry the feet thoroughly after showering or bathing. Keep the feet dry.
- Use a drying powder when suffering from sweaty feet.
- Wear clean, absorbent socks every day.
- Wear loose-fitting shoes from airy material (leather) or open shoes.
- Switch shoes regularly and let them well air out in the meantime.
- Wear bath slippers in areas where many people walk barefoot, such as in showers and swimming pools.
- A deformed or troublesome nail can be improved with a pumice stone or file. This can also be done by a pedicure. It’s not necessary to remove the nail fungus partly or completely.
- In case of an ugly discolored nail, nail polish may be applied.
- The term ‘onychomycosis’ is derived from the Greek word onycho (claw); mycosis is the medical term for a fungal infection of any kind.
- The prevalence of nail fungus is 5%.
- Older people are about 30 times more likely to develop nail fungus than children.
Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome (AIDS)