Fungus Nail (Onychomycosis)
Q: What's the problem?
A: Fungus Nail is an unsightly infection of the nails, causing thickened, brittle, yellow, discolored and sometimes painful nails. It can be very difficult to cure. It is caused by one of several microscopic organisms, similar to those that cause Athlete's Foot (dermatophytosis). These are plant like organisms that thrive in a dark, warm, moist environment, such as within shoes and stockings. They grow in the nail bed, beneath your nails, and live off Keratin, the protein in the nail. The condition usually begins toward the far end of the nail and may cause white or yellow-white areas that appear to be rotten or dead. If the infection continues to the base of the nail, it can invade the nail root (matrix) and cause the nail to grow thickened and deformed. Many people complain of a foul odor associated with this condition. It can also spread to other nails. The fungus often spreads to the adjacent skin surrounding the nail.
Q: How does it feel?
A: It may not be painful in the beginning, and may only look slightly different than the normal nails. Later, the nail may begin to show small patches of white or yellowish-tan color and may become brittle and split. As it progresses, the nail becomes thicker and deformed and may begin to grow at an angle and become an
Ingrown Nail Pain develops, due to the ingrown or thickened nail deformity, and becomes aggravated by pressure applied by shoes. Inflammation can develop due to this pressure and a secondary bacterial infection may occur, leading to more pain. Even without inflammation, shoe pressure on the fungal nails can cause pain, making it difficult to walk or stand for periods of time. This can also influence one's involvement in day to day activities.
LET'S DO A TEST!
Correct evaluation and diagnosis is important, as other common medical conditions, such as psoriasis, can look like Fungus Nails. Your doctor may make this decision by examination alone. He may also examine scrapings from the nail under the microscope or send these scrapings to the lab for accurate identification, to determine if the condition is a fungus and what type of fungus is responsible.
Q: How did this happen?
A: Many types of fungus are common in our environment. Among them are the dermatophytes, a group of opportunistic parasitic plant organisms, similar to molds or mildew, that, lacking chlorophyll, do not require sunlight for growth. Sweaty tennis shoes and moist socks create the perfect conditions for them. The fungi thrive in a warm, moist, dark environment and they eat the protein keratin that our skin produces. Although fungi may be present in the skin around the nails, one may not develop a nail infection without history of injury, such as bruised nails from short shoes, inflammation from an ingrown nail, or from cutting the nails incorrectly or too short. In other words, the organisms do not invade intact, healthy, normal skin or nails. Other contributing factors would be excessive perspiration, and Dermatophytosis (Athlete's Foot), which is caused by similar fungi. Some individuals appear to be more susceptible to infection. These would include those with medical conditions such as diabetes and poor circulation and HIV. For that reason, even if treatment is successful in eliminating the condition, the susceptible person may become re-infected in the future.
Q: What can I do for it?
A: Topical medications are ineffective in most cases, because the infection starts growing under the nail. Topical medicines penetrate deep enough into and through the nail, to treat the living organisms under the nail plate. Any clearing of the nail surface is eventually overtaken by infected nail replacing it from underneath. Unfortunately, in this condition, any self treatment is, at best, temporary. Use of a topical anti-fungal medicine may, at best, prevent spread of the fungus to, as yet, unaffected nails or the surrounding skin. Oral medications are also available. Oral medications go through your blood to treat the infection. Unfortunately, they come with a variety of side effects and levels of effectiveness. These medications can be expensive and require a long term regiment spanning several months. As with all treatments, it takes 6 to 9 months for the healthy nail to grow out.
Q: What will my doctor do for it?
A: Once an examination is performed, your doctor will discuss the advantages and disadvantages of different therapies and other alternatives with you, to determine the most appropriate treatment in your situation. Fortunately there is a quick, effective, safe and pain free method for treating fungal nails using a laser. During a 30 minute session, while you relax in the chair, your doctor will direct laser light over your nail with a “painting” motion. Once you leave the office you don't have to think about it again for another month. After your third treatment during the third month, and with proper at home care, you can have clearer nails and be more comfortable.
Q: Can I prevent it from happening again?
A: You may be asked to treat the insides of your shoes, which have become contaminated by the fungus. This is to make sure that the new healthy nail doesn't become contaminated by any fungus hiding in the shoe. To prevent the fungus infection from coming back, the best offense is a good defense. We must control moisture and create a drier environment for your feet. Use powder in shoes, to absorb perspiration. Avoid synthetic or nylon socks that trap, rather than absorb perspiration. Cotton socks absorb moisture and wick it away from the skin and nails. Keeping your feet dry and protected from injury is essential to avoid any fungus infections. If you have been cutting your nails too deeply, or treating an ingrown nail on your own, this may have allowed the fungus to grow under the nail. If shoes
have become contaminated while you had the condition, they may be sanitized by spraying them with a topical anti-fungal spray, to prevent a recurrence of the Fungal Nail condition.
Q: How does the SteriShoe sanitizer fit in with laser treatments for toenail fungus?
A: Your shoes are a reservoir for microbes that cause foot infections. This includes the spores and microbes that cause toenail fungus (Onychomycosis). The SteriShoesanitizer is a clinically proven, safe and easy to use method to sanitize your shoes. Sanitized shoes are an important cornerstone of a protocol to treat nail fungus because it limits exposure to the microorganisms that cause it. To read more about the SteriShoe Santizer click here.