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Fungal Facts

Below is a list of frequently asked questions
 

WHAT IS NAIL FUNGUS?
WHAT CAUSES NAIL FUNGAL INFECTIONS?
HOW DO I KNOW I HAVE NAIL FUNGUS?
HOW DO I PREVENT NAIL FUNGUS?

Fungal nail infections (onychomycosis) or nail fungus is very common - affecting up to one in ten of the population. Around half of all nail problems are related to fungal infections. It affects men more than women and is more common as you get older. It is more common in the toenails than fingernails and, because of this, the effects on the foot are more commonly mentioned. In either case, the treatment and subsequent results are similar.
Fungal nail infections often result from damage to the nail plate or skin, which allows a fungus or athlete's foot to invade the nail. Hot, sweaty feet in all-day shoes provide the ideal warm, damp environment for nail fungus to thrive, but there are many other factors  that increase the risk of infection - for example, nail biting, smoking, poor foot hygiene, trauma from running, ill-fitting footwear, and medical conditions like diabetes or psoriasis. Contaminated floors in gyms and swimming pools and unhygienic nail cutting equipment can also expose your feet to the fungus.

                                                                                   Toe Nail Fungus - Klayman Foot Laser Clinics

Fungal infections are often unsightly. With nail fungus, the nail becomes thickened or discoloured; it can turn yellow, brown, orange or white. There may be black areas of bleeding as a result of trauma or areas of dark green if a bacterial infection is present too. Nails can become brittle or can crumble, and may lift from the end of the digit. In some cases debris collects beneath the nail and becomes malodorous.

While some see the fungal infection as purely cosmetic, when the nail becomes thickened, heavily discoloured and crumbly it can cause significant embarrassment and self-consciousness. It can become painful in shoes, can develop corns down the side of the nail and also become impossible to cut or trim, causing ingrown nails. In addition it becomes a source of nail fungus that can constantly re-infect the skin of the foot.

What causes Nail fungus ?

Fungal nail infections often results from damage to the nail plate or skin. A skin infection or athlete's foot invades the nail, causing the infection. Up to 30 per cent of patients with fungal nail infections also have skin infections. Hot, sweaty feet in all-day shoes provide the ideal warm, damp environment for fungi to thrive. Nail fungus infections are caused primarily by dermatophytes, but also candida and the various yeasts and moulds that thrive in these conditions. The dermatophyte Tricophytum Rubrum, for example, is responsible for about 90 per cent of all nail fungus infections. Factors that increase the risk of nail fungus infections are:
•    nail damage
•    medical conditions such as diabetes, psoriasis, or a weakened immune system
•    smoking
•    athletes foot untreated
•    general poor health
•    activities involving impact or shared washing facilities
•    trauma to the nail - for example, running or poorly fitted footwear
The nail fungus develops when the foot is contained in a warm, damp shoe for too long.It is estimated that five to ten per cent of adults and almost half of those aged 70-plus suffer from fungal nails.

How Do I Know I Have a Nail Fungus Infection ?

Many people affected by nail fungus have noticed changes in the texture, quality and colour of their nails. It can take some time before this becomes significant and even more time before any treatment or medical advice is sought.
Typical first signs are a yellowing or brown discolouration of the tip or an area within the nail. Initially there may be a slight lifting of the end of the nail. There can be dry skin around the nail or chalky debris underneath
In clinic, diagnosis is made after discussion about the progression together with an inspection of the nail. The characteristic colour changes of brown, yellow, white or orange and crumbling or thickening of the nail are highly diagnostic. The nail often shows longitudinal lines of discolouration extending back from the tip. A nail sample can be sent for culture in some cases to confirm diagnosis if there is doubt, although this is not always conclusive. Colour and texture changes of the nail together with signs of athlete’s foot – whiteness between toes, red border and scales to the foot, small pus dots around the arch and border or itchiness – are considered to be diagnostic.

How Do I Prevent Nail Fungus Infections ?

Skin and nail fungus is caused by an infection. The skin and nail has to come in contact with the fungi; there must be a route of entry and the immune system would fail to respond effectively. Prevention is based on eliminating these items.
It’s essential to:
1.    Know what athlete's foot (tinea pedis) looks like and treat it early and effectively. Usually white macerated skin between third and fourth interspace which is itchy.
2.    Take care around public areas, changing rooms and swimming pools. Wear flip flops, dry your feet well and change on top of a clean towel.
3.    Let your feet breathe.  Air out your shoes and don't wear the same shoes on consecutive days.
4.    Keep your toenails trimmed and clean, as well as the implements you use keep clean and sterile and don’t share instruments.
5.    Wear cotton or natural fibre socks and leather and breathable uppers in shoes.  
6.    Only attend nail salons for manicure or pedicure that have adequate levels of hygiene. Avoid whirlpools that do not have a removable liner.  Make sure that all instruments and files are sterilized and that the environment around you looks clean.
7.    Podiatrists specialize in the treatment of the foot and nail. They would be able to care for your nails and general foot health. As a minimum, all instruments are sterilized between patients in an steam autoclave  and  ultrasonic cleaner which kills every germ.
At your appointment the Podiatrist will discuss these preventive methods with you and advise.