Toe and finger nails

Did you know that nail fungal infection in the USA, as with other western developed countries, is very common? It’s important to note that fungus usually impacts people’s toe nails and to a lesser extent, their finger nails.

Onychomycosis

About 14% of people can be affected by infection at any one time. For those interested in this, and who wish to study the issue further, it will help to know the medical term for this fungus condition which is “onychomycosis”.

Fungus getting harder to treat

This is a growing problem and close attention should be paid to a current tendency for fungal infections becoming harder to treat being due to increasing levels of resistance to treatments on offer today.

It’s interesting to note a parallel picture too in the field of antibiotics where there has been a proliferation of emergent drug resistant strains of bacteria over the last decade or so.

What are the symptoms of nail infection?

However, today many nail infections are generally not a major cause for concern. But still, a lot of people may endure some discomfort with pain and itchiness. Many of those infected can also be alarmed by the look and feel of their nails.

Early identification therefore is key so people need to play close attention to their nails if an infection is suspected. Frequently fungal nail infections can become noticeable through a discoloration, a thickening, or some degree of fragility and even cracking of the nails. In more severe cases it’s possible for nails to weaken and dislodge from a toe completely.

Fungus paradise found

Fungal toenail infections can emerge with a corresponding foot infection. This is often called Athlete’s Foot. It usually manifests itself between the toes where these places are often warm and damp. The affected areas will show up with a degree of redness and seem moist to the touch.

Fungal breeding grounds

Fungus thrives in these areas and it’s no surprise that the sporty amongst us frequently have the condition. The infection often breeds in the footwear and socks of a sufferer. Athlete’s foot can be called ringworm on the foot, or tinea pedis).

How does fungal nail infection begin?

There are numerous types of fungus that live around us. So, it’s very easy to pick up an infection. To combat this and reduce risk we need to realize the most common points of entry into the body. Usually, infection finds its way through small fissures in someone’s nail and nearby skin. These sites can let the fungus take hold in a nail and then when established, the fungus spreads.

Who is susceptible?

It’s important to establish anyone can contract a nail infection. However, there are some groups in society more pre-disposed and vulnerable to becoming infected. These groups need a heightened level of awareness and must work hard on caring for their feet.

The fungal impacts on older members of society

Older members of the population such as seniors are more prone to fungal infections. This is because often times, through the process of ageing, they have impaired and weaker immune systems.

Diabetics can get more foot and nail problems

Another group who have suppressed disease immunity is diabetics. Diabetes can often have a compromised immune system and this means fungus finds it easier attack and spread infection in these individuals.

Many diabetics can also experience poor blood circulation to the extremities of the body. Narrowed arteries reduce blood flow, especially to the arms or legs and feet. With the constriction of blood to the feet comes the greater risk of infection. Good blood flow is vital to enable the body to recover.

This group also experience less feeling in the extremities of their body which can mean they pick up infections without noticing them. Therefore, this can lead to serious complications because the infection has become established and so harder to treat.

Cancer and fungus

Other weakened immune system groups such as cancer patients can also be prone to fungal infections. For instance, cancer medications and chemotherapy can attack the immune system and leave them very vulnerable to all kinds of infections.

Fungal nail complications

To compound difficulties, occasionally, a bacterial infection can occur on top of a fungal nail infection and cause serious illness. This is more prevalent in people with diabetes or other conditions that weaken the body’s defenses against infection.

Foot injury

Many people contract a nail infection through a more general fungal foot infection. This happens with injury to the toes or some type of foot deformity which lets fungus spread more efficiently.

Other fungal hotspots

Fungal infections in other places can include the finger nails. For example, with the increasing use of acrylic nails, a lot of people tend to get infections under these applied layers to their nails, sometimes without realizing it. As time goes by, they discover their fingernails have a fungal infection through observing discolored nails or some kind of nail deformation.

How to prevent fungus infections

Generally, people need to ensure they keep their hands and feet clean but also dry. It’s very important to pay particular attention to areas between toes. Because these areas are a little more difficult to reach, they can be overlooked and left damp.

It’s smarter to keep shorter fingernails and toenails because longer nails can harbor increasing amounts of germs and dirt.

Care should be taken not go walking barefoot in areas like locker rooms or public showers. These are places where fungus spores thrive and so can spread more easily between people.

Sharing of nail scissors or clippers is not a good idea as this can easily be a road to cross infection via these implements.

People must check out whether a nail salon or bar is licensed by the relevant state’s cosmetology board. Time should be devoted to noticing the levels of hygiene and ensuring the salon sterilizes instruments such as nail clippers, scissors etc.

Diagnosis

If someone suspects they have an infection then we advise they contact a health care provider to diagnose any fungal infection. Those who suspect a problem, may be surprised to discover there are other conditions that may appear to be fungus but on closer medical inspection reveal themselves to be something else.

We support the practice of getting an examination and possibly a laboratory test to confirm a fungal infection diagnosis.

It’s possible that after a course of treatment fungal infection may return. For instance, diabetics can be more prone to re-infections due to their immune systems not functioning well. If anyone has an inkling their fungal infection has returned, they should contact their healthcare provider to discuss further action.