Anyone currently suffering from nail fungus (otherwise known as Onychomycosis) will know that, due to the location of the fungus under the nail, it is a very difficult type of infection to treat. Other fungal infections caused by the same group of fungal organisms – such as Athletes foot where the skin between the toes is affected – are far easier to treat primarily because the fungus lies in a more accessible position.
Several studies conducted in the US and Europe estimate prevalence rates of between 8-12% of the adult population. The risk of contracting the disease increases with age, poor hygiene, long term exposure of the nails to water, nail injury, diabetes and peripheral vascular disease.
The initial sign of infection is usually a discolored mark or spot at the tip (distal edge) of the nail. If left untreated, the fungus (and associated discoloration) will spread down the nail towards the cubicle. The spread of the fungus is typically accompanied by a loss of nail texture and the accumulation of debris under the nail. In severe cases, the nail can become increasingly thickened and distorted as it lifts off the nail base.
If you suffer from Onychomycosis, most health professions will recommend that you take action to treat the disease. Fungal infections are progressive in nature and can become increasingly embedded and difficult to treat. In particular it is important to start treatment before the lighter colored half moon section of the nail near the cuticle has been affected.
Things to know about nail fungus treatment:
It can take several months to clear up a nail fungus infection. In order to prepare yourself mentally for this, read this article and follow the links to our treatment tracker.
Toenails are much more likely to become infected than fingernails. As toenails are slower growing, treatment times are typically longer than for fingernails. For more information read our article on yellow toenails.
Topical treatment products such as Funginix and Zetaclear are all natural formulations for the treatment of nail fungus infection and are generally considered safe. They are also considerably less expensive that oral anti fungal treatment or laser treatment (see points that follow).
Some of the oral anti-fungal medications available on prescription have been linked to side effects including liver damage. Although serious complications remain rare, your doctor may require a series of toxicity screening blood tests to ensure your liver is healthy prior to treatment, and remains so through the course.
For mild infections, and as a prevention strategy to keep healthy nails fungus-free, topical application of tea tree oil is a good option to consider.
A growing number of podiatrists are offering laser treatment for nail fungus infections. While the procedure has not been linked to serious side effects, the treatment is costly.