Fungal nails, also known as onychomycosis, is a common foot problem that affects millions of people worldwide. Our podiatrists, see this on a daily basis and have extensive experience in diagnosing and treating fungal nails. Here’s what you need to know about this condition:
Fungal nails are caused by an overgrowth of fungi in, on, or under the nail. The most common types of fungi that cause fungal nails are dermatophytes, but other fungi and yeasts can also be responsible. Fungal nails thrive in warm, moist environments, such as sweaty shoes or socks, locker rooms, and public showers. The risk of developing fungal nails is increased in people with weakened immune systems, diabetes, peripheral artery disease, or a history of nail trauma.
Fungal nails can be identified by their appearance, which includes:
Discolored nails (yellow, brown, or white)
Crumbly or brittle nails
Fungal nails can be painful, especially when pressure is applied to the affected area. They can also spread to other nails or the surrounding skin if left untreated.
There are several treatment options for fungal nails, including:
Topical medications: A podiatrist may prescribe a topical medication containing antifungal agents to apply directly to the affected nail. These medications work best when used in combination with regular debridement or removal of the infected nail tissue.
Oral medications: In some cases, a general practitioner may prescribe oral antifungal medications to treat the infection. These medications may cause side effects and require periodic blood tests to monitor liver function.
PACT antimicrobial therapy: High powered ultraviolet light may be used for more severe or persistent fungal nail infections. The UV light destroys the fungi that cause the infection without damaging the surrounding tissue.
Surgical removal: In some cases, a podiatrist may recommend surgical removal of the affected nail. This is typically reserved for severe or painful infections that have not responded to other treatments.
To prevent fungal nails, it is important to:
Keep feet clean and dry to reduce the risk of infection.
Wear protective footwear in public areas, such as flip-flops or shower shoes in locker rooms and public showers.
Avoid sharing socks, shoes, or other footwear with others.
Change socks and shoes frequently, especially after physical activity or exposure to moisture.