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Nail Fungus (Onychomycosis)

Posted Oct 04 2011 12:00am


Nail fungus can severely damage your nails, leaving them discolored, jagged, and brittle. While nail fungus is often attributed to poor hygiene, the fungi capable of causing this condition are present in nearly every environment. In most cases, the immune system is able to fight and destroy these fungi. It is when a person’s immune system is compromised that this fungi can take over and lead to this condition. The elderly are most at risk, especially those with weakened immune systems, decreased blood circulation, and diabetes. Moist and humid environments are also a risk, such as a communal shower at a gymnasium or pool. These moist environments can even include socks and shoes that do not absorb perspiration or allow for proper air flow. People with athlete’s foot and psoriasis are also at increased risk.

There are many ways to combat nail fungus. Be sure to wear socks that are breathable, such as those made out of natural fibers. When in a communal shower or other wet area, be sure not to walk barefoot. In the case that you have a nail injury, pay careful attention that it stays clean and dry so that it may heal without any fungi entering it. Also, give your shoes a break every few days and let them air out. For those who partake in salon pedicures and manicures, be sure to go to a clean and reputable one. Most places will even allow you to bring your own files and clippers.

Even with these precautions, fungi may still strike your nails. It is important to treat this condition as early as possible. One infected nail is much easier and cheaper to treat than five or ten. Nail fungus can cause serious problems in people with diabetes, AIDS, leukemia, or those who have had an organ transplant. These problems may include decreased circulation to the nerve supplies to the feet or even cellulitis, a bacterial infection of the skin.

Once you have nail fungus, no amount of scrubbing or soap will destroy it. Oral medications work, at best, 50–60% of the time and have potential risk to your liver, kidneys, retina, and taste buds. Topical medicines can be a hassle to apply and must often be used in conjunction with oral medication. Laser treatment is one of the most effective ways to deal with this condition. This method is painless and requires no anesthetic. A single treatment can be completed in less than an hour

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