Fungal nail infections are common infections of the fingernails or toenails that can cause the nail to become discolored, thick, and more likely to crack and break.
According to the American Academy of Dermatology (AAD), fungal infections affect toenails more commonly than fingernails because your toes are usually confined to your shoes, where they’re in a warm, moist environment.
If you get a manicure or pedicure at a nail salon, be sure to ask how the staff disinfects their tools and how often they do it. Tools, such as emery boards and nail clippers, can spread fungal infections from person-to-person if they are not sanitized.
Reduction of the nail can reduce the discomfort experienced by thickened fungal nails and improve the appearance of the nail temporarily, it does not treat the fungal infection.
There are hundreds of different topical nail treatments that can be purchased from the pharmacy, supermarket or online. However, it is important to visit a podiatrist to let you know which treatment to use, and importantly, how to use it properly to get the maximum effect.
Chemical nail avulsion
This involves painlessly removing the fungal portions of the nail with an ointment that is applied daily over a few weeks. This leaves a clean base prior to the application of other treatments
PACT stands for photodynamic antimicrobial therapy, involving the application of an ointment to the nail followed by shining a LED light on it for 9.5 minutes to kill the fungus.
A course of treatment is required, this depends on how many nails are infected and the severity of the infection. PACT is not recommended for severe fungal infections penetrating past the cuticle.
There are oral medications that may be indicated in the presence of a fungal infection. The minimal course of treatment for oral medication is usually around 3 months, often more than this is required.
The lacuna method is where tiny holes are drilled into the nail plate, therefore gaining access for topical treatments to reach the nail bed, where the fungal infection is most active.
Nail reconstruction does not treat the fungal infection but provides a temporary cosmetic fix for those who find their nails unsightly, usually lasting 6-8 weeks.
Tips to Prevent Fungal Nail Infections
Making a few simple lifestyle changes can help prevent a fungal infection of the nails. Taking good care of your nails by keeping them well trimmed and clean is a good way to prevent infections. You should also avoid injuring the skin around your nails. If you are going to have damp or wet hands for an extended amount of time, you may want to wear rubber gloves.
Other Ways to Prevent Fungal Nail Infections
- Using anti-fungal sprays or powders regularly
- Washing your hands after touching infected nails
- Drying your feet well after showering, especially between your toes
- Getting manicures or pedicures from trustworthy salons
- Using your own items for manicures or pedicures
- Wearing socks that minimize moisture
- Avoiding being barefoot in public places
- Reducing your use of artificial nails and nail polish