Do You Have Fungal Nails?

Learn How to Prevent and More

Prevention - Because fungi are everywhere, including the skin, they can be present months before they find opportunities to strike, and before signs of infection appear. By following precautions, including proper hygiene and regular inspection of the feet and toes, chances of the problem occurring can be sharply reduced, or even put to a halt.

Clean, dry feet resist disease; a strict regimen of washing the feet with soap and water, remembering to dry thoroughly, is the best way to prevent an infection. Shower shoes should be worn when possible, in public areas. Shoes, socks, or hosiery should be changed daily. Toenails should be clipped straight across so that the nail does not extend beyond the tip of the toe. Use a quality foot powder--talcum, not cornstarch--in conjunction with shoes that fit well and are made of materials that breathe.

Avoid wearing excessively tight hosiery, which promotes moisture. Socks made of synthetic fiber tend to "wick" away moisture faster than cotton or wool socks, especially for those with more active lifestyles.

Artificial Nails and Polish - Moisture collecting underneath the surface of the toenail would ordinarily evaporate, passing through the porous structure of the nail. The presence of an artificial nail or a polish impedes that, and the water trapped below can become stagnant and unhealthy, ideal for fungi and similar organisms to thrive.

Always use preventive measures when applying polishes. Disinfect home pedicure tools and don't apply polish to nails suspected of infection ñ those on toes that are red, discolored, or swollen, for example.

Treatment - Depending on the nature of the infection and the severity of each case, treatment may vary. A daily routine of cleansing, over a period of many months, may temporarily suppress mild infections. White markings that appear on the surface of the nail can be filed off, followed by the application of an over-the-counter liquid antifungal agent.

However, even the best-over-the-counter treatments may not prevent a fungal infection from coming back. A fungus may work its way through the entire nail, penetrating both the nail plate and the nail bed. If an infection is not overcome, or continues to reappear, further medical attention is strongly recommended.

Podiatric Medical Care - A podiatric physician can detect a fungal infection early, culture the nail, determine the cause, and form a suitable treatment plan, which may include prescribing topical or oral medication, and debridement (removal of diseased nail matter and debris) of an infected nail. Indeed, debridement is one of the most common foot care procedures performed by DPMs.

Newer oral antifungals approved by the Food and Drug Administration may be the most effective treatment. They offer a shorter treatment outlook (three to four months) and improved effectiveness, though DPMs advise that lengthier treatments, up to 12 months, may still be required for some infections. Current studies show that, for a small percentage of the population, there are some unwanted side effects with any oral antifungal.

In some cases, surgical treatment may be required. Temporary removal of the infected nail can be performed to permit direct application of a topical antifungal. Permanent removal of a chronically painful nail, which has not responded to any other treatment, permits the fungal infection to be cured, and prevents the return of a deformed nail.

Trying to solve the infection without the qualified help of a podiatric physician can lead to more problems. With new technological advances in combination with simple preventive measures, the treatment of this lightly regarded health problem can often be successful.

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RIVERA FOOT & ANKLE: At Orlando H.Rivera DPM, our priority is to deliver quality care to informed patients in a comfortable and convenient setting. When you have problems with your feet, you need to turn to a podiatrist who listens and responds… an experienced doctor who knows the field and can effectively diagnose and treat your needs… a friendly physician who counsels you on the best ways to maintain and improve your health. Our physician(s) meet all these criteria. Plus, you benefit from a dedicated team of trained professionals who give you the individualized attention you deserve.

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