About Nail Fungus

They shouldn't. Nail fungus is serious business. While mostly affecting toenails, it is estimated that toenail fungus alone is common in about 20% of the population, and 75% of the people over 70. A good deal of nail fungus cases are more cosmetic, but could be accompanied by pain and could turn into a serious affliction if not caught early. Diabetics and people with weak immune systems are especially at risk with nail fungus, with the infection often causing open sores and potentially serious complications.

By definition, nail fungus (medically known as “onychomycosis”) is an infection that can cause the nail (usually a toenail but sometimes a fingernail) to become thick, discolored, and cracked. The fungus can infect one or more nails, and starts at the nail tip before moving deeper into the nail as the infection increases. Nail fungus is solely an infection of the nail, and not the skin.

Spotting nail fungus.

Nail fungus infection generally appears first at the tip of the nail as white or yellow spots, moving deeper into the nail as it eats away at the nail's underside. As dead nail cells pile up, the nail color could change to yellow, green, brown, or even black. The nails may also thicken and become brittle, with ragged edges causing them to crumble mush easier. If not caught early, the infection could cause the nail to separate from the nail bed, emitting an odor. The fungus could also start affecting the skin around the nail, turning the skin reddish with itching. In more extreme cases, bleeding may occur.

Toenails are more susceptible to nail fungus because fungi (the plural of fungus) need a warm, moist environment to grow. Swimming pools, shower floors, and even sweaty socks are perfect places for a nail fungus to incubate. Toenails also have less blood flow than fingernails, which also contributes to the better fungus environment. Nail fungus can also be transmitted between people, making swimming pools, showers, and even shared pedicure equipment as possible vehicles.

Treating nail fungus.

There are many over-the-counter treatment aides for nail fungus at your local pharmacy. A simple Google search will help you choose the best one for your condition, provided it is a cosmetic condition. If the fungus has gone anywhere beyond cosmetic, and symptoms worsen, you should see a doctor immediately. Depending on the severity of the fungal infection, a doctor could prescribe an anti-fungal cream or ointment, a medicated anti-fungal nail polish, or an oral medication. These medications attack the fungus from inside, killing the fungus and allowing for a new nail to be grown.

It is not uncommon for the process of curing nail fungus to take up to a year, which is another reason to make sure you treat nail fungus as soon as it is suspected or identified.

Helpful hints – Preventing nail fungus With most ailments, the best treatment for nail fungus is never allowing it to happen. Here are a few basic suggestions to try and keep your life nail fungus-free:

• Keep your finger and toenails properly groomed, while regularly cleaning and reviewing your nails.

• Never pull at your cuticles, or the skin around the nails. The fungus can enter if it finds nicks or tears.

• Keep your hands and feet dry. Consider synthetic socks which keep your feet cooler and less moist.

• Make sure your grooming tools are always clean and sterilized, and never share them with anyone else.

• Avoid walking barefoot in public locker rooms, pools, or showers.

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