This is a short post to address a very common ailment – Nail Fungus (medically known as onychomycosis or tinea unguium) – whether it is finger(s) or toe(s), it really doesn’t matter. Your fingernails and toenails should look something like the above images. But if they don’t, then this is for you.
Who is susceptible to nail fungus – people with poor hygiene, those who are over 60 years of age and people with compromised immune systems due to disease states seem to be more prone to having nail fungus (children can also have nail fungus). It is not a pleasant experience and as soon as it is noticed should be taken care of immediately, as it will lead to more issues later.
My very first experience with nail fungus was about 8 years ago. I had a pedicure from a nail salon in town and he “cleaned out” the fungus beneath my toe nail – YUCK!! I had noticed that the toenail had discolored a bit but didn’t realize what it was! How many of you really look at your toe nails regularly?
I had been bathing my feet in vinegar and warm water prior to this and I guess hadn’t dried my feet awfully well. Also, when I looked back over time, it was the very same toe that I had a bad experience with when I had a bunion removed a couple of years prior to it! Come to think of it, it happened again after I had my hip surgery as well (same side again)!! Trauma is one of the causes of nail fungus! The body is a strange and wonderful thing. Something you should know about nail fungus is that it is typically not contagious, but with regular intimate contact can be passed along to another family member.
How do you know you have a nail fungus? Well, the fungus will start at either the bottom end or the top end of the nail and will work its way to the middle of the nail. Yeast onychomycosis is a yeast infection caused by “candida” and is usually found as a fingernail fungus and shows up as discolored nails (yellow, brownish, or whitish color) or thickened nails. Those with a candida infection will also have a candida yeast infection in their mouth (chronic paronychia).
Where do you pick up this fungus? Moist wet areas like swimming pool locker rooms and communal showers are the most likely places to contract these fungi. Using other peoples nail equipment (nail salons that don’t disinfect their equipment properly), tight fitting and sweaty shoes will cause nail trauma and therefore fungus, and if you have athletes foot it will contribute to it as well.
What do you do when you get a fungus? Go to the drug store or Walmart and buy that stuff they sell over the counter (which I never ever had any luck with), or you could use a very helpful essential oil called Tea Tree Oil. I find this essential oil to be very effective at fighting nail fungus, whether finger or toe. Start by cleaning the nail thoroughly with warm water and regular soap. Just put a drop or two under the affected nail, let it dry and leave it to dry completely. Make sure if you are wearing socks that the nail is dry. When using nail utensils, make sure they are very clean – I clean mine with alcohol to make sure there is no “transfer” from an infected toenail.
Tea Tree Oil works because it is a natural anti-fungal, anti-bacterial, and anti-viral and fights fungus extremely well. If you use it make sure to keep this oil away from children. Also, be sure to not touch your face anywhere near your eyes as the oil is very concentrated and will burn. If you do get some in your eye(s) accidentally, wash it out with cold water for about 5-10 minutes then dry it with a towel and if it still burns, grab an ice pack or something like that and wrap in a towel and put it on your eyes. You can always use eye drops if it still burns, but wash it out first. If it hurts the next day see an eye doctor if possible. Tea tree oil will not cause permanent damage to your eyes as it can also be used as a treatment for some eye issues, but it definitely will burn and possibly cause your eye to cloud over temporarily.
Other home treatments include coconut oil, and other essential oils such as cedar leaf essential oil (which is found in Vicks VapoRub).
There are a lot of medications that can also be used to treat severe toenail fungus (one that just won’t go away and looks really bad). There are topical creams/ointments that can be used but may take up to a year to help completely and might be difficult to find outside of the USA. You can also go to your doctor, dermatologist, podiatrist, or chiropodist to obtain a prescription to help treat your nail fungus as there are many medications that may help. A dermatologist or podiatrist may shave off the top layer of the nail or remove part of the nail to help in treatment.
Any treatments, whether home, over the counter, or prescription can take anywhere up to 18 months to get rid of nail fungus. But also be aware that it can recur, especially toenail fungus. Mine has returned a couple of times since having my first bout.
Here are some tips from everydayhealth.com to help avoid toenail fungus:
Healthy feet depend on good hygiene, so it’s important to keep your toes clean and dry. Follow these seven tips to avoid a toenail fungal infection:
1. Clip your toenails correctly. Cut your toenails with properly sanitized nail scissors or clippers and make sure to cut them straight across. Andersen says it’s fine to use a nail file to gently file any sharp edges.
2. Wear properly fitted shoes. Shoes shouldn’t be touching your toenails in any way . Avoid sliding into shoes that are too big and jamming your toenails into the end of the shoe. The American Academy of Family Physicians recommends buying shoes with a wide toe box that won’t cramp your toes.
3. Choose breathable footwear. The more air that’s able to circulate around your feet, the drier and less susceptible to toenail fungus they’ll be. Your best bets: Shoes made of a breathable material like leather or canvas, according to the American College of Foot & Ankle Orthopedics & Medicine.
4. Alternate your shoes. Putting on shoes that are still damp from yesterday’s sweaty workout will only increase your risk of a toenail fungal infection, so invest in a few good pairs and rotate them. Don’t wear the same pair of shoes two days in a row. Allow them to air out between wearings. And make sure they’re placed out in the open where they can dry thoroughly.
5. Avoid going barefoot in public areas. Locker rooms, public pools, showers, and similar areas are loaded with fungi just waiting to get to your toes. Always wear flip-flops, sandals, or shower shoes in a moist environment.
6. Disinfect regularly. Scrub your shower and disinfect it with a bleach-based cleanser. Spray your shoes with an antibacterial spray, especially if you’ve worn them without socks, and wash all socks in hot water with bleach to kill any fungi. Also wash your feet daily, making sure to thoroughly dry them afterward, especially between the toes where moisture can get trapped.
7. Sprinkle your shoes. Use an antifungal powder to keep fungi at bay. Sprinkle the powder inside your socks and shoes before each wearing to prevent the growth of fungi spores, suggests the American College of Foot & Ankle Orthopedics & Medicine. This is especially important in hot weather when your feet tend to sweat more.
There are numerous conditions that may “look like” nail fungus but are not. These include: Pitted nails – which may be a sign of psoriasis; Paronychia – swelling and redness around the nail; Hematoma – red or black under the nail caused by some type of trauma; and Pseudomonas bacteria which can grow under the nail as shown in the image here.
It’s really a good idea to make sure you check your toenails regularly, and if using a nail salon for a pedicure, check them closely, especially if you wear nail polish all the time, as it can hide these issues. Colored nail polish will sometimes discolor your toenails (and fingernails), so be sure to check them thoroughly.
As I mentioned above, nail fungus is not pleasant and is cause for concern. If you find you have any of the above mentioned signs, make sure to see your health care team to evaluate the issue and cause, then get treatment right away. And hopefully your nails will look like this again:
Have a marvelous day and week ahead.