Fungi is a common ingredient of nature. Even on our skin, there are numerous fungi alongside bacteria. Usually, fungi don’t cause any problem. However, when certain strands start overgrowing, it usually ends up by infecting your skin. Nails are also prone to fungal infections. Onychomycosis, also recognized as tinea unguium. Unfortunately, fungal infections are quite hard to notice at the primary level because such infection, at the starting point, doesn’t trigger any noticeable symptom.
What Fungal Nail Infections Looks Like
If we make a list of fungal nail infections, the length would be pretty huge. The most prevalent symptoms only appear when the fungus invades the end of the nail. In the case of onychomycosis, the nail plate will eventually split from the nail bed. Keratin debris will develop below the nail. The nail will begin to get fragile and begins to crumble. There will be noticeable color changes, generally turning yellow.
Reasons for Fungal Nails Infections
For any normal and healthy person, fungal infection is highly unlikely. However, the fungi may come from outside. Fungi are highly prevalent in moist and wet areas.
Public showers like those at the swimming pool or gymnasium are a common source. If you are going to nail salons, the usage of different instruments with improper sanitization can cause nail infection.
If any of your family members have this infection, you are also very likely to become infected. This type of infection is contagious. Even normal skin contact may spread the infection.
Athletes too are more susceptible to nail fungus. This causes repetitive trauma for the toenails. Therefore the weakened structure is more susceptible.
Diagnosis of Onychomycosis
It’s worth mentioning that not every discolored, thickened nail is because of fungi infection. There are also other diseases such as lichen planus, psoriasis, eczema that can cause similar fungal nail infection symptoms. It’s important to properly diagnose fungal infection because it’s a long term treatment.
There are 2 ways to effectively diagnose whether the suspected nail is infected by fungus.
A fungal culture
The KOH test
The KOH test can be performed quickly. In the case of fungal culture, it will take time to regrow the fungus in the lab and verify which fungal organism, if there’s any.
It needs long-term treatment. For successful treatment, the patient needs to take or apply medicine for months. Unfortunately, in the case of nail infections, topical application isn’t enough. There are 3 effective medications for this infection – two of them for fungal nail infections and another specifically for nail infections.
Terbinafine (Lamisil): An FDA approved fungal nail medicine that yields 70% to 90% effective when used as prescribed by a doctor. Terbinafine is known for interacting with other medications, especially cimetidine and caffeine. Usually, the dosage for fingernail infection is 250 mg once a day for 6 weeks and for toenail infection, for 12 weeks.
Itraconazole (Sporanox): It’s another similar medicine like Terbinafine that, if used according to prescription, will be 70% to 80% effective. However, Itraconazole is known to interact with a number of other medications. It’s strongly recommended to take this one with food. For fingernail infection, the dosage is 200 mg every day for 6 weeks, 12 weeks for toenail infections.
Fluconazole (Diflucan): Unlike the other two, this one is not FDA approved for treating fungal nail infections. However, it’s a powerful oral antifungal medicine. The benefit of this medicine is, it remains within the body for a longer period of time. In addition, you only need to take it once a week. According to some studies, fluconazole can be 70% to 90% effective. The recommended dosage is 450 mg once a week for 4-9 months.
Tips to Prevent Fungal Nail Infections
Fungal infection is quite nasty. We cannot get rid of fungi. However, with just a few simple changes in our lifestyle, we can dramatically reduce the chance of fungal infection. In the case of your nail, it’s important to take good care of it. Trim and clean your nails on a regular basis for preventing any type of infection. Try to avoid injuries that might involve your nail or skin around it. If your hand is going to remain wet or damp for a longer period of time, you should use rubber gloves. Always cut your nails straight across to prevent ingrown nails which can be very painful.
Are Fungal Nails Contagious?
It usually depends on the type of fungal infection. For example, nail ringworm infection is contagious. Otherwise, fungal nail infections are not so contagious.
In fact, onychomycosis itself affects up to 10% of the general population. Men are generally more likely to get a fungal infection than women. The probability of developing one is also proportional to age. That being said, if there is any slight doubt, you should go through appropriate diagnosis, either by your doctor or your dermatologist. Follow the prescription strictly and stay clean. You may also like to read another post, What nails say about your Health: Curious?