Onychomycosis is a fungal infection of the nail and is estimated to affect up to 1.6 million Australians. Two currently available treatments include antifungal nail lacquers that are applied daily/weekly and prescription medications.
It can be extremely frustrating to have to apply and re-apply lacquers daily/weekly. Furthermore, prescribed oral medications can interact with other drugs and can produce adverse effects making them unsuitable for some people.
Fungal infections cause dramatic visual changes to a nail which can become unsightly. They may make the nail change colour, become thicker or make them break easier. Often they are often of cosmetic concern as they are unsightly, and at times, painful.
Fungal nails infection (onychomycosis) is very common, particularly in the toenails. Around half of all nail problems are due to fungal nail infection. It usually affects adults, and affects more men than women. It also becomes more common as you get older.
Onychomycosis is caused by fungal organisms that invade the nail through the nail bed or nail plate. The fungus can infect a nail damaged by trauma and can often spread from the skin to the nails and from person to person. The nail itself provides a protective layer that allows the fungus to grow underneath on the nail bed unimpeded.
The main fungi that cause onychomycosis are dermatophytes.
These fungi thrive in dark, warm and moist environments, the shoes are ideal breading grounds.
There are several factors that may put you at increased risk of developing fungal toenails. These include:
- Trauma to the nail. Acute or repetitive micro-trauma such as rubbing on your shoe.
- Poor hygiene – not drying off the feet thoroughly after bathing or exercise
- Living in a warm environment
- Excessive sweating
- People with a compromised immune system – including people with Diabetes.
- Poor peripheral circulation
- Warm, moist environment from occlusive footwear
- Working in a wet environment
Do you have Fungal Nails?
In most cases our podiatrist will be able to tell you if you have fungal nails by a visual inspection. Sometimes, it isn’t always clear and a sample of your nail clippings may need to be sent away and analysed. Several nail disorders may mimic fungal nail infections including psoriasis.
If you suspect you have developed a fungal toenail infection it is advised that you see your podiatrist who can professionally diagnose and treat the condition.
Onychomycosis is difficult to treat primarily because nails grow very slowly. The toenails grow on average about 1.5mm per month; this is half the rate at which fingernails grow. The nail is made up of protein similar to hair and isn’t able to regenerate, so treatments generally work by reducing the spread of the fungus and waiting for the nail to grow out. This can take years in some cases.
Healthy feet provide the foundations for a healthy body and an active life!
Dr Peter Shelton BSc Hons. Accredited Podiatrist.