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Everything you need to know about fungal nails and how to treat them

fungal Nail Infection

What is Fungal Nail?

Fungal nail is a contagious condition that generally starts in one nail and will gradually spread to the others. Its also known as Onychomycosis. Toenails are most commonly affected but you can get it in fingernails too. It can be caused by many different types of fungi (yeasts or moulds) that live in the environment. Small cracks in your nail or the surrounding skin can allow these germs to enter your nail and cause an infection. It is very slow growing and therefore often people just assume that the changes are just part of the ageing process.

However, once the fungus becomes established, then the nail will gradually become thickened, rigid and brittle. Discolouration occurs and the nail can turn yellow, white or in some cases brown. Cracking or flaking of the nail can occur as well. If it remains untreated then eventually the nail can fall off. Although unsightly, fungal nail is not generally painful unless it is extreme, but your nails can be tender when you try to trim them.

Can anyone get a fungal nail infection?

Yes, although it is more common in adults and certain conditions can increase your chances. If you suffer from athlete’s foot, have diabetes, a weakened immune system or poor circulation in your feet you might be more prone. A nail injury or surgery can also increase your risk, as cracks in the nail can become a portal for infection.

Is there a cure?

Yes!! The good news is that it can be treated and the treatment is painless. However, it can be a very slow process and it doesn’t typically go away without anti-fungal medication.

If you suspect you have fungal nail, then visit one of our clinics where our Podiatrists can diagnose and initiate your treatment. Often the affected nail needs to be reduced in thickness first using a file or burr, so that the anti-fungal drops or oil can work effectively. This is a painless procedure and we will then provide you with drops or oil which will need to be applied regularly.

Further appointments are spread over a certain period for further reduction during the treatment phase, to enable the medication to work. Treatment is usually successful with the return of healthy nail plates, which are then easy to manage again. However, occasionally too many nails are infected, or the infection does not respond to conservative methods and in this case the Podiatrist will advise oral tablets that are available on prescription. The treatment must still be monitored closely so that medication can be stopped as soon as the infection has cleared

Is there anything I can do to prevent fungal nail?

Prevention is always better than cure, so we recommend adopting the following habits to keep your feet healthy…

· Wash, dry and moisturise your feet daily – hot, sweaty feet can become a breeding ground for fungi.

· Rotate your footwear – allow trainers to dry out between wear. Try sprinkling them with anti-fungal powder.

· Don’t share nail scissors or clippers – clean and disinfect instruments regularly.

· Avoid going barefoot – especially in communal changing rooms as damp floors can often be contaminated.

· Wear clean socks –Don’t re-use socks without washing them first in hot water.

· Wear shoes with a roomy box around the toes – this allows air to circulate around your toes.

· Use a protective product such as Gehwol oil – this restores nails natural sheen and skin elasticity.

· Treat fungal infections of the skin (e.g. athlete’s foot) promptly- suitable creams and powders can be bought over the counter. Ask your Pharmacist.

Having regular appointments with your Podiatrist / Podiatry Assistant will keep your feet and nails in good condition. Any signs of fungal nail can be picked up early and treated before thing get too bad.

Please don’t ignore the signs and hide those toes away. Remember, fungal nail infection is one of the most common ailments we see and it’s quite unlikely to just go away by itself. So, give us a call today and you’ll be one step closer towards fungal free happy feet.

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