One of the most common nail complaints is fungus, also known as onychomycosis.  While it’s not a lovely subject to talk about, the fact remains that many people have questions about what it is and how to treat it.  This affliction isn’t merely a cosmetic nuisance, it can cause pain and discomfort for the individual as well.  While we all know to check our salons and make sure they are disinfecting all of their equipment to avoid contracting a nail fungus that is not the only cause. Fungi live in warm, moist environments including swimming pools and showers.  Once exposed to a nail fungus the warm environment created by wearing closed toes shoes can complicate matters.  While everyone can become affected by this, there are certain groups that are more susceptible:

  • Older adults
  • Males
  • Persons with a genetic predisposition
  • Persons with poor circulation
  • Persons with Diabetes Mellitus
  • Persons with Immunosuppression (such as HIV)
  • Anyone suffering from a nail trauma

Just how common is Onychomycosis?  It is relatively common, with 2% to 18% of the population being affected and increasing with age; up to 50% of the population over 70 experiencing this.  Without treatment this chronic infection can last ten years or more.  Many people can suffer for most of their adult life.  The fungus can also spread not only to other nails, but areas of skin and even the scalp.  The good news is that the occurrence in toenails is 4 times as much as fingernails.

So what should one do if they suspect a nail fungus?  Firstly, schedule an appointment with your Doctor so that it can be properly diagnosed.  Onychomycosis causing pain may result in the removal of the nail.  Leaving this untreated not only can cause it to spread, but it can also cause disfiguration of the nail, impair circulation and even serve as a reservoir for infection for the rest of the body.  After your Doctor tests the sample the best course of treatment will be decided.  Many options for treatment are available including creams, topical antifungal agents, lotions, and even oral medications.  Even with treatment, it can take upwards of four months to one full year before the new healthy nail is growing. In conjunction with treatment there are other measures that should be followed including:

  • Discard old footwear
  • Purchase multiple shoes, if this is not possible change all insoles of shoes
  • Alternate wearing different pairs of shoes
  • Disinfect footwear by using an antifungal powder or spray
  • Keep feet clean and dry; clean feet daily and keep feet dry throughout the day
  • Contact your Doctor at the first sign of a recurrence as the likelihood of resolution will improve with early detection

With consistent treatment and care nail fungus can be cured.  Practicing proper hygiene, wearing shoes in public showers and swimming pools, and ensuring that your nail salon disinfects their tools can help avoid ever contracting it in the first place.

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