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  • Catriona Holt

Know Your Nails: Treating and Preventing Fungal Nail Infection

Fungal nail infection affects about 1 in 4 people so is quite common. When a fungal nail infection takes hold on the nails it can not only cause embarrassment to the person suffering from the infection but more importantly, it can become painful and in a small number of cases it can lead to more serious further infection. Being able to spot the signs of nail fungal infection early, and knowing what can cause it, can really help to prevent fungal infection occurring in more than one nail.

About fungal nail infection

Fungus under the nail usually affects toenails more commonly than fingernails. The fungus that is responsible for the infection is usually the same one that causes athlete’s foot, a common skin infection that starts between the toes. Sometimes a small crack in the nail plate can enable the fungus responsible for athlete’s foot to take hold in the nail.

Other fungi which are not associated with athlete’s foot can cause fungal nail infection, for example, Candida yeast and other moulds. In these circumstances, the fungi will attack existing brittle or split nails. Having reduced blood circulation to the feet or a weakened immune system can also contribute towards developing a fungal infection in the nail, as can aging. As we age our nails become more brittle and are more prone to fraying and cracking.

While having a nail fungal infection in one nail can make it easier for the infection to spread to more nails, it is less common to pick up the infection from someone else.

Signs of fungal nail infection

A very early sign of nail fungal infection is a white spot on your nail. This can turn yellowish before the nail starts to thicken in the area and become crumbly. The spots usually appear at the edge of the nail and then spread down the side of the nail towards the cuticle. The big toe and little toe are the ones most commonly affected by fungal nail infections.

Common signs of nail fungal infection:

  • Thickening of the nail.

  • Discolouration of the nail to white or yellow/brown.

  • Brittleness and splitting of the nail.

  • Change in nail shape.

  • Slightly foul smell.

Other conditions, such as psoriasis, can mimic a fungal infection of the nail so these changes may not always indicate a fungal infection. A nail technician or podiatrist will be able to advise you and help monitor your nail health.

What we suggest

While it can be tricky to treat a fungal nail infection that has taken hold, if caught early there are a few things you can do:

  • Keep your nails short, dry and clean.

  • Use one nail clipper for infected nails and disinfect after use, and use a different one for nails that are not affected.

  • If you suspect athlete’s foot is the cause, treat it with antifungal powder to avoid fungi accessing other toes.

  • Keep your feet dry and change socks regularly.

  • Wear properly fitted shoes and that let air flow in.

  • Wear protective shoes in communal showers or swimming pools.

If the fungal nail infection gets worse and you start to notice signs of nail discolouration or thickening then we suggest:

  • Visiting a podiatrist who will file back thickened nails to ease any pain.

  • Apply an antifungal powder to the infected nails. Avoid using antifungal creams around the toe as this holds moisture in the area and prevents the area from staying dry.

Other things that have been said to work are:

  • Applying Vick’s Vaporub to the infected nails once or twice daily for a year. This has proven quite an effective way to treat fungal nail infections.

  • Consider changing your diet to alter the PH levels so that your diet contains more alkaline rich foods instead of acidic foods.

  • Mixing equal parts hydrogen peroxide and bread soda. Make a paste and apply to nails for 20 mins. Then wash off the paste and scrap away any areas that have become soft. Repeat the procedure three times a week.

When it comes to nail fungal infection the best cure really is prevention. As the fungus thrives in damp, warm, dark conditions it is best to let the air at your feet as much as possible regardless of whether you have a fungal nail infection or not.

When can you get a pedicure or manicure again? Nail technicians are highly trained to look out for early signs of nail infection or damage but we don’t advise getting a pedicure or manicure until a nail fungal infection has completely healed. If you have any concerns please contact the salon and book a free consultation with Catriona.


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