Fungal Nail Infections (Onychomycosis) are a very common complaint. Over 10 million people in the UK and 700 million people worldwide suffer from them.
Onychomycosis affects men more than it does women and is more common as you get older.
Most fungal nail infections cause merely cosmetic complaints with most sufferers reporting unsightly and embarrassing changes. The infected nail becomes thickened, discoloured (yellow) and often crumbly, it becomes impossible to cut down and takes on a unique odour.
If left untreated, fungal nail infections can be very painful in shoes and can cause corns down the outside of the nail. In some cases the infected nail can lift from the end of the toe, debris can collect under the it, altering the curvature of the nail.
The causes of nail fungus infection are numerous, and a combination of the most common causes usually leads to infected nails, whether that is toenails or fingernails that have the fungal infection.Nails with damage to the nail plate and the seal at either end of the nail are most at risk from fungal nail infection. Also, a common skin infection known as athletes foot, usually present between the toes, then invades the nail and causes the fungus problem.
Foot fungus thrive upon the conditions in the shoe and 30% of people complaining of fungal toenail infection also suffer from athletes foot infection.
The hot sweaty environment found in the shoe are ideal for the fungi to grow and to spread on the toenails. Fungal infections are caused primarily by dermatophytes, candida and various yeasts and moulds found in these conditions.
Serious medical conditions such as poor circulation and diabetes can lead to worsening conditions and occasionally a secondary bacterial infection. Use of common towels, walking barefoot on contaminated surfaces and the use of non-sterile equipment for toenail cutting and filing can cause the nail fungus infection.
Common causes or factors that increase the risk of nail fungus infection are:
- Nail damage
- Having poor general health
- Regular use of shared washing or changing facilities
- Trauma to the nail, from poorly fitting shoes or a sports / running injury
It has been estimated that nearly 10% of the population suffer from either toenail or finger nail fungus infection and over half of those over 70 are affected. The nail fungus can be treated with specialist lasers that help cure the infection completely, in approximately 20-40 minutes depending on condition of the infection, without oral or systemic drugs, painkillers or anaesthesia required.
Symptoms and Diagnosis.
The majority of diagnoses for nail fungus infections can be made by discussion and inspection alone as the symptoms are mainly cosmetic. However, where there may be doubt about infection, a simple nail culture can be taken and tested to confirm the existence of nail fungus. Nail cultures can give false negatives in up to 30% of cultures tested.
Common symptoms of Fungal Nail Infections include
- Thickened Nail
- Nail Discolouration (White, Black, Yellow or Green)
Once the fungal nail infection has been confirmed the Podiatrist will begin laser treatment, The nails will be cut and if needed painlessly thinned to remove the thickened and loose parts of nail. After you have been issued with protective goggles, the Podiatrist will then begin the lasing process which generally takes between 15-20 minutes
Following your laser treatment you will receive an advice sheet that contains information about how best to use and apply the antifungal cream and antifungal spray that you will be supplied with.
There are many steps that can be taken to prevent nail fungus infection;
- Check regularly for signs of Athletes foot – whiteness, scaling, flaking between the toes or spots on the arch and border of the foot – and treat Athletes foot as early and effectively as possible
- Let your feet breathe and rotate shoes regularly so you are not always wearing the same ones
- Take care in public risk areas, such as swimming pools and changing rooms, always wear flip flops, dry feet thoroughly and apply an antifungal spray before putting shoes and socks back on
- Always wear cotton fibered socks and leather shoes
- If you believe you are at risk of nail fungus infection, apply an antifungal treatment at least once a week
What should I do to reduce my chances of re-infection?
Steps should definitely be taken to avoid re-infection, this is because the infection can return if the fungus or athlete’s foot infection is able to gain access to the nail or foot.
It is worth remembering that the athlete’s foot infection is part of the same family of infection that causes fungal nail infection. Therefore if your shoes harbor the athlete foot spores you are likely to re-infect your nails. We suggest that you regularly apply antifungal creams or sprays and that you should avoid walking barefoot in wet public areas and that you should dry and decontaminate your shoes regularly with a good, effective shoe sanitised.
What is the best way to reduce my overall chance of re-infection?
Toe nail fungus requires a moist warm dark environment to thrive. The best way of reducing your risk of re-infection is to use a shoe sanitiser as often as you can but at least two to three times per week. The sanitiser will disrupt the environment within the shoe that fungus needs.
The Peet GO Shoe Sanitiser completely drys the shoes out and neutralizes fungal spores and bacteria with UV light.
Why is it important to have dry shoes?
With more than 250,000 sweat glands in each foot, your feet are among the most perspiring parts of the body. In one day, each foot can produce more than a pint of sweat, resulting in saturation your shoes. Without the use of a shoe sanitiser your saturated shoes require at least 24 hours for them to adequately dry out.
Our hands have a comparable number of sweat glands so why don’t fingers suffer from the same rates of fungal nail infection as our toes?
Apart from the fact that fingers are exposed to light the answer lies within our socks and shoes. The sweat our feet produce can’t easily escape into the air like the sweat from our hands. It all collects on our skin and in our socks and in the fabric of the shoe. Fungi and bacteria thrive in warm dark, damp environments such as damp shoes. Increased foot moisture is therefore a key ingredient for fungal nail infection.
Regular use of the shoe sanitiser will keep your shoes dry and smelling fresh and most importantly reduce your chance of re-infection of nail fungus.