Fungal nail infections are common and can affect both the fingernails and the toenails. The problem usually affects more men than women and is more common in the elderly. A fungal nail infection causes visual changes to the nail. It causes the nail to change colour, thicken, and become brittle. Around half of all nail problems are due to fungal nail infections.
Fungi called dermatophytes live harmlessly on the skin but can often multiply and lead to infection in dark, warm, and moist environments. Certain shoes can cause the feet to become hot and sweaty which can lead the fungi to multiply quickly. Not keeping the feet clean and dry can also speed up the infection risk.
The infection will progress if left untreated. The nail can become discoloured with the nail turning white, yellow, green, or even black. The nail can become thickened and the texture can change making it difficult to trim. The shape of the nail can also change which can cause discomfort when placing pressure on the toes that are affected.
Keeping feet clean and dry can help to reduce the risk of developing a fungal nail infection. Wearing shoes made from natural materials and cotton socks will allow the feet to breathe. Fungal residue can build up in towels and socks, therefore, it is very important that they are washed regularly and not shared with others.
There is a choice of either oral or topical anti-fungal treatments. Oral anti-fungal treatments can be prescribed by your GP if you are suitable. Topical treatments are available over the counter or from your podiatrist. Fungal nails infections can take a long time to resolve (12 months+), but the proper preparation of the nail surface by a podiatrist prior to applying the topical agent can increase the success.