What is a Nail Fungus?
A nail fungus is a very common occurrence and can appear on both toenails and fingernails. It is caused by a fungus(a living organism) that thrives in environments that are dark and damp, such as under and around toenails. Toes are the most likely affected area, as they are often in a dark and damp environment in your shoes and socks. In such cases the affected nails can have a yellowish or brownish discolouration, may thicken or become brittle over time, and/or have crumbling edges and in some cases fall off.
A nail fungus can be embarrassing and at times quite painful! The nail acts like a protective covering that allows the fungus to grow underneath and as a result, under the free edge of the nail you may notice an accumulation or build up of debris.
Who does a Nail Fungus affect?
Anyone can get nail fungus, but some people are more susceptible than others. Those affected can contract the disease with symptoms ranging from mild to severe.
Factors that contribute to the condition include:
- Shared use of infected implements or environments
- Unsanitary nail bars
- Abnormal pH levels of the skin
- Trauma to the nail
- Poor hygiene of the foot or feet
- Susceptibility (i.e. decreased immunity) of the person who has contact with the fungus
It is estimated that 1 in 10 Australians have toenail fungus, and is one of the most common ailments treated by Podiatrist and foot specialists.
Where does a Nail Fungus come from?
Nail fungus and other fungi such as athlete’s foot like to grow in warm moist areas, which include, but aren’t limited to, unsanitary pedicure salons, spas, swimming pools (especially public pools), locker rooms and showers. The fungi can live in warm puddles on tile floors and inside foot baths such as whirlpools, waiting for someone to step in and pick up the fungi spores.
What does a Nail Fungus look like?
A nail fungus in the early stages of infection occurs under the nail as has a cloudy appearance or may just give the nail a yellow tinge. As the nail fungus spreads, it can also begins infect the surrouding skin and nails. If the infection is left untreated it can cause the nail to become badly damaged where it may break or fall off. The fungus then causes the nail to become thick and powdery and more prone to further breakage. If a nail fungus is left untreated, it can spread and infect the other surrounding nails also making them dry, chalky and thick.
There are certain signs and symptoms that will warn you of a nail fungus. These include but are not limited to:
- nails are/ become flakey
- nails are/ become brittle
- nails chip regularly
- nails become yellow, brown or black tinge or have spots
- nails become thick and white and pain occurs while wearing shoes
- A bad smell comes from under the nails
- A stinging pain may occur under the nail while walking
Below are some images that assist in identifying a nail fungus:
How is a Nail Fungus Treated?
At Medical Pedicure we have trained Podiatrists to discuss all levels of conditions and treatment plans. It is recommended that you make an appointment with Medical Pedicure to have this matter assessed and the correct treatment prescribed.
How is a nail fungus prevented?
To avoid getting a toenail fungus or possibly another form of fungus on the foot you should try to follow a few simple things:
- Avoid going to cheap and unsanitary nail salons
- Acrylic nails and gel nails feed fungus
- Wear natural cotton socks
If you have a nail fungus, dry your feet with a separate towel and only use it once to avoid spreading, (it is advised to wash towels and socks in an antifungal solution to avoid recontamination after its gone).
- Do not share towels, socks or shoes.
- Use paper towel or toilet paper to dry affected areas
- Wear breathable shoes
- Do not use nail polish until the fungus is gone use tea tree oil instead.
- File nail very thin so that a local treatment can be applied to the area effectively.
What is Tinea?
Tinea is a fungus which presents itself as a red scaly rash between your toes. As the fungus grows it spreads out in a circular shape, leaving normal looking skin in the middle. The skin will be lifting, due to the irritation, around the edge causing it to look like a ring. To some this circle shape may look like a worm and tinea sometimes referred to as “ringworm” although there is no worm under your skin. The most common name for tinea is Athlete’s Foot. The area may be quite itchy with dry red skin around the area. If left untreated it can spread and cause problems with the toenails.
What Causes Tinea?
Tinea is a highly contagious fungus and can be picked up by touching someone’s affected area or by walking barefoot in areas where skin can be shed, for example public pools or showers. The tinea fungus requires a moist warm environment to grow, which is why tinea is most common on the feet. The running shoe provides the ideal environment tinea needs to grow in, as your feet become hot and damp especially during exercise. It is because of this that tinea got its name Athlete’s foot because it is very common in sporting clubs that share shower facilities.
What areas are affected?
Tinea is named for the part of the body it affects, for example the most common form is Tinea Pedis the tinea of the foot, the word Pedis is Latin for foot. The moist skin between your toes provides the ideal environment for the fungus to grow. In this case the tinea may spread to your nail which is called Tinea Unguium – Unguium is Latin for nail. There are other areas that can be affected and different types of tinea such as Tinea Corporis – tinea of the body, Tinea Cruris – tinea of the leg or groin and Tinea Capitis – tinea of the head.
What does Tinea look like?
The best way to be sure you have Tinea is to consult with a Podiatrist. Other skin conditions may look similar to Tinea, but require a different type of treatment.
Tinea may begin as an itchy red patch on the outside of the foot, heel or between the toes which will become inflamed, red and scaley if left untreated. As it progresses the Tinea can spread to other parts of the body and lead to sores from the constant itching. If left untreated it can lead to serious bacterial infections that will result in weeping sores.
Below are some images to assist you with identifying Tinea:
How is Tinea Treated?
Tinea can be treated with various anti fungal creams and medications and good ongoing foot care. At Medical Pedicure, trained Podiatrists can assess your condition and prescribe the appropriate treatment.
What is a Fungal Infection?
A fungal infection is caused by a type of fungi called a demophyte that infects the top layer of the skin, hair and nails. Fungal infections of the skin are known as Tinea Versicolour (Tinea). There are many types of fungal infections but the most commonly dealt with are Tinea Pedis (Athlete’s foot) and nail ringworm (Tinea Unguium). They are very common and affect between 1-2 people in every 10 at some point in their lives.
Types of Fungal Infections?
There are various types of fungal infections that can effect the foot.
However, the most prevelant is Athletes Foot and most people who have it are unaware of it. The infection usually occurs between the toes, and /or on the soles or sides of the feet. It can also be found in toenails which cause discolouration, flakiness and even the loss of the nails.
Who is affected by Fungal Infections?
Fungal infections can occur at any age to anyone.
What causes a Fungal Infection?
Fungal infections like Athletes Foot, are often contracted from public places especially in warm, damp areas, such as foot baths, gyms, public showers and swimming pools. Tinea isn’t just found on the foot, it can spread to the toenail, or even to other parts of the body including the underarms and genitals. It is for this reason that you have to be careful not to spread the infection and to get it treated as soon as possible.
Treatment of Athletes foot isn’t usually much for concern as it is usually treated fairly easy. However, as with any foot condition, those with diabetes and compromised immune systems must be aware that they are more susceptible to developing infections that can lead to more serious medical problems and as such should treat it more seriously.
What does a Fungal Infection look like?
Below are some images to assist you with identifying whether you are suffering from a fungal infection:
How is a Fungal Infection treated?
Once you have a fungal infection, it is recommended that you visit the Podiatrist just to make sure that it is in fact what you are suffering from. While most cases can be treated easily, others can be extremely stubborn and difficult to get rid of. In rare cases fungal infections can even become chronic, constantly reoccuring.
In most cases, fungal infections clear up after one to four weeks of treatment, depending on the location and severity. However, some fungal infections such as Tinea ten to occur repeatedly, as such, antibiotics may be prescribed when it becomes chronic or progresses to a bacterial infection.
How do I prevent Fungal Infections?
When it comes to prevention it’s all about foot hygiene. Washing feet daily and drying them thoroughly (especially between the toes), airing shoes regularly, changing socks daily and keeping feet dry is of the up most importance. Regular exfoliation of the feet can also be done with either a foot exfoliating scrub cream, or a foot scrubber brush and should be done weekly. Make sure you use thongs in public showers and stay away from talc on your feet or from borrowing other people’s shoes.