Nail fungus is something which affects millions of people throughout the world And can be a challenge to treat effectively. In fact there is estimated to be around 18% of the population at any given time will be suffering with or trying to treat a nail fungus infection.
It occurs when the fungus, called a dermatophyte, finds an entry point into the nail and then spreads and colonisers the nail bed. This process is known medically as Onychomycosis.
It can affect both the fingernails and toenails although an infection of the toenails is more common as our feet are generally hidden away from view and covered by shoes and socks which provide the damp dark and moist environment for which the fungus loves to grow.
Toenail fungal infections may start with a fungal infection of the web spaces between the toes called athletes foot, which then migrates to the nails. Fingernail fungal infections are typically introduced by using nail bars and beauty salons where the instruments and tools are not sterilised correctly, if at all.
Probably the worst thing about a fungal toenail infection is that the nail will eventually detach from the nail bed and drop off, although this is unlikely to be painful. However, most people are more embarrassed by the stages of deterioration before this happens, such as the yellow and brown discolouration and the thickening and disfigurement of the nail plate itself.
Many older people decide not to treat the fungal nail infection as it can be more trouble than it's worth, particularly if there is no pain, but if you are diabetic or suffering with circulatory disorders your doctor will want you to undergo a course of treatment because of other complications that can arise such as bacterial infections taking hold under the nail, which may lead to more serious problems for these types of patients.
For those that do decide to treat their infection there are a variety of ways to do it:
- Natural remedies
- Over-the-counter medications
- Prescribed medications
- Laser treatments
The most common strain of nail (and skin) fungus is Trichophyton rubrum and whatever course of treatment you decide to take will need to specifically attack this organism. For natural remedies one of the best methods is to use 100% pure tea tree oil. Try to apply this directly between the nail plate and the nail bed so that it runs between the two attacking the fungus directly.
There are many over-the-counter preparations available from your pharmacist so it is always best to ask their advice. Many involve filing the nail down and applying a lacquer which contains an acid penetrates the nail reaching the fungus below. However, these may take a very long time and end up being ineffective, not least because the patient gives up halfway through.
Your doctor or podiatrist may be able to provide you with an oral anti-fungal medication which is taken generally over a period of six months but may lead to complications such as liver damage.