Finding something odd about one of your nails can feel very worrying. Is your nail is lifting out of its nail bed? Or you’ve noticed some odd colour changes? White streaks across the nail? Yellow spots? Read on, because you might have a fungal infection.
How do I know if I have a fungal infection?
Fungal infections can affect the nails. Onychomycosis is the medical term used to describe fungal infections of the nail. These infections can lead to the destruction of the nail and prevent proper nail growth.
Are you at higher risk of developing fungal infections? Let’s have a look at some of the common habits that increase your risk of contracting a fungal infection of the nail. Fungal infections of the nails are common, being responsible for 50% of nail abnormalities.
What is a fungal infection?
A fungal infection arises when one strain of fungus becomes overpopulated. A fungal infection is a slow process that takes place over time. Once you experience symptoms, the fungus is already overpopulated. Noticing symptoms and delaying treatment will exacerbate the situation. Fungal infections can affect both fingernails and toenails. Fungus thrives in warm, moist conditions. Feet that are in closed shoes all day serve as the perfect environment for the fungi to grow and thrive, eventually overpopulating.
How can I be sure I have a fungal infection?
“That’s exactly what I have” does not count as a diagnosis if you relate to any of the symptoms we’re listing.
We diagnose a fungal infection by examining nail clippings under a microscope. In some cases, we’ll send the samples to a laboratory before you get a definitive diagnosis.
Symptoms of a fungal infection of the nails include:
- Brittle or weakened nails
- Thickened and hardened nails
- Ragged or distorted nails
- Discoloured, darker or yellowing nails
- Flaky or scaly parts under the nail
- Yellow spots at the tips of the nail
- Yellow or white streaks
- Nails with infection may start lifting out of the nail bed
Here’s how to treat fungal infections of the nail:
It’s important to see Dr Khoza for a proper diagnosis. That is the first step. Then she will decide on the treatment you need. This may include oral medication. Other treatments can include anti-fungal nail lacquer, or topical creams. How fast you see an improvement depends on the type of infection you have, and on the severity of it.
Sometimes, patients will need to stay on their treatment plans for a good few months.
Want to fix it? Understanding the cause of the infection is also important
There are risk factors for developing fungal infections of the nails. For example, a compromised immune system increases your risk. If you have diabetes, this also increases your chances of contracting fungal infections. Other factors that can cause nail infections include:
- Conditions that affect blood circulation
- Being older than 65
- Using public swimming pools
- Wearing artificial nails
- Nail injuries, and injuries to the skin surrounding the nail
- Wearing closed shoes every day
- Have moist hands or feet for prolonged periods
If you’re one of the above, don’t stress. You can prevent fungal infections
Here are some small lifestyle changes to keep you safe from fungal infections.
Wear gloves if your hands will be wet for prolonged periods.
- You can also keep an anti-fungal powder handy. Use it when you wear closed shoes. A few sprinkles in your socks will work well.
- Dry your feet well after bathing or showering. Pay special attention to the areas between your toes.
- Only visit reputable nail salons. Wherever possible, use only your own nail products.
- Minimise the use of artificial nails.
- Avoid being barefoot in public restrooms and around indoor swimming pools.
- Examine your feet and hands on a regular basis. If you see a change, take action sooner rather than later.
Ready to feel better? Look out for these complications
The longer you leave it, the more difficult treatment will be. The infection itself grows stronger, and side-effects also develop over time. Diabetic patients often battle with healing and their complications can be very serious.
Some of the other potential side effects you need to watch out for include:
- Permanent loss of the nail
- Permanent discolouration of the nail
- The infection can spread to other areas of the body
- Bacterial diseases, like cellulitis, can develop
- A resurgence of infection can occur at a later point again
If you’ve noticed any unusual changes on, under or around your nails, contact Dr Khoza. We are always ready to help our patients through thick and thin. If you’re ready for a solution to your nail problems, get in touch.
Dr Noks Khoza – Helping you face the day with confidence.