What is onychomycosis (nail fungus)? Is it contagious? Why does it happen? What are the symptoms? How is it treated? Which doctor to go to for nail fungus? What is good for nail fungus? You can find the answers to all these questions and much more below.
What is onychomycosis (nail fungus)?
Onychomycosis , also known as nail fungus , is a common fungal infection that starts as a whitish or yellowish spot on the nails or nail tips.
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As the fungal infection deepens, onychomycosis (nail fungus) can cause nails to become discolored, thickened, and crumble at the edges. It can affect just one nail, or it can affect more nails.
Older people with dementia or other mental illnesses are more affected by onychomycosis (nail fungus) because they do not fully comply with hygiene rules. Like athlete’s foot , onychomycosis (nail fungus) can be transmitted directly in swimming pools and saunas.
Causes of onychomycosis (nail fungus)
Nail fungus is usually caused by filamentous fungi. Infections that start with Candida fungus or mold are less common. The spread of fungi can affect frail people who are already struggling with other health conditions more. For example, diabetics are often more susceptible to onychomycosis (nail fungus).
The disease also affects the elderly because their immune systems are naturally weakened and the body can no longer provide a reliable defense against fungal spores. In addition, drugs used in the context of immunodeficiency drugs, autoimmune diseases or cancer treatment may also play a role in the development of nail fungus.
Regardless of previous or still existing diseases, onychomycosis (nail fungus) develops particularly easily in a warm, humid environment. For this reason, they occur more often on toenails than other fingernails. For example, if the shoes are not breathing enough, the sweat stays in the shoes for a long time and provides an ideal cork environment through the body heat of the person.
Symptoms of onychomycosis (nail fungus)
In the nail fungus problem, the first symptoms of those affected are often perceived as a harmless inflammation and therefore not given much attention. Unlike athlete’s foot, these are considered harmless. There is no pain, and therefore this problem is not of great importance in the beginning.
At first the fungus begins to spread around the edge of the nail, the nail turns yellow and there are rough, worn-looking areas. In the later stage, the nails gradually crumble, the nail plate thickens, and the fungus spreads to larger areas. If the nail plate shows streak-like yellowish changes, the nail root is also affected by a fungal infection.
It is also possible to see dark pigments in some places. If you are careless and do not pay attention to these changes, it is possible for the fungal infection to spread to other parts of the body. In such a case, adjacent skin areas of the affected nails, such as the fingers and toes, may also be affected by the fungal infection.
When should you see a doctor?
Since onychomycosis (nail fungus) pathogens are highly contagious , a doctor should always be visited for comprehensive treatment if they become noticeable on the nails. If you suspect a nail fungus, the most appropriate treatment should be decided with a doctor, although there are various medications and treatments.
Even if the size and intensity of the complaints increase, it is recommended to go to the doctor. Inflammation of the nails and other related problems should be tried to be prevented and treated. A visit to the doctor is also necessary if discoloration occurs, the nail is unusually brittle, or the nail plate changes.
A doctor should also be consulted if pain develops in the fingers or toes, if the nail is unusually soft, or if streaks appear on the nail. Increased sweating in the hands or feet, a change in the skin structure next to the nails should also be reported to the doctor.
If the family members with whom the toilet is shared have nail fungus disease, it is useful to consult a doctor as a precaution, because in this case there is a risk of spreading the infection.
Which doctor do you go to?
If onychomycosis (nail fungus) is not very severe, your family doctor can usually treat it with the necessary medications. However, in cases of more advanced infections, you may need to see a dermatologist.
Diagnosis of onychomycosis (nail fungus)
In such a case, the doctor will first examine the nails. He may also take some samples from the nails or scrape the residue from the nail. The reason for doing this is to send the tissue taken to a lab for examination to determine the type of fungus causing the infection.
Other dermatological diseases, such as psoriasis , may in some cases resemble nail fungus, and sometimes microorganisms such as yeast and bacteria can also appear on the nails. First of all, determining the cause of your complaint will make a great contribution to the treatment process.
Onychomycosis (nail fungus) treatment
Anyone can treat a mild infestation of nail fungus in the early stages on their own . In pharmacies, you can use special nail remedies that must be applied regularly, in consultation with pharmacists. These drugs will slowly kill the fungal spores.
The healing process can be recognized by the fact that the nail turns white again or acquires its original color. However, it may take a little longer for the previously infected part to regain its original quality as it must be cut first.
In more severe cases or when more than one nail is affected, the nail can be surgically removed. This is painless and the nail is not pulled out as before. A laser is used to vaporize the affected nail . Antimycotic cream is used after treatment . Afterwards, socks and shoes should be disinfected. The nail will then grow back.
After treatment, the task of the person concerned is to prevent the recurrence of the disease. For example, regular nail care and the slippers and socks you wear on your feet are especially important after onychomycosis (nail fungus) treatment . The shoes and slippers you wear should be breathable and clean. Nail fungus treatment is a long process.
For stubborn forms, it is recommended to visit the doctor every two to three months. The doctor will determine the condition of the disease by physical examination. He or she may also prescribe other medications. During treatment, the patient must strictly adhere to the necessary hygiene measures.
On the one hand, these promote healing, on the other hand, they prevent the transmission of infection to other people. Sheets, towels and carpets that come into contact with diseased feet should be washed at least 60 degrees. Walking barefoot in public areas should also be avoided to avoid infecting others.
What is good for nail fungus?
Despite all efforts, onychomycosis (nail fungus) can be particularly persistent. Fungal spores spread quickly and can cause repeated infections. Therefore, regular and intensive cleaning is particularly important.
All furniture or decorative objects in the apartment that come into contact with hands or feet should be cleaned. Shoes and gloves should be disinfected. Used clothing should be cleaned regularly to eliminate germs. The floors of the apartment must be disinfected. In particular, bedding, duvets, pillows and mattresses should be cleaned and disinfected.
In addition, the vacuum cleaner should be cleaned before use and its bag changed if necessary. Walking barefoot should be avoided and shoes should be disinfected regularly. In many cases, it is helpful to wear socks both day and night. However, care should be taken to avoid excessive sweating.
No other shoes should be worn or walking barefoot in public facilities and bathrooms. Your nails should be treated regularly with medicines recommended by the pharmacist or doctor. In addition, good foot or hand care should be done to avoid skin problems. If hands are affected, they should be disinfected several times a day.
Complications of onychomycosis (nail fungus)
Treatment of nail fungus is a long process, and also more often causes complications. Nail fungus is not life-threatening, but it can likely spread to many places on the body. This is especially true for people with weakened immune systems.
Individuals at this risk include the elderly, patients with blood circulation problems in the feet ( such as atherosclerosis ), people with serious illnesses, or patients who have to take medications to suppress the immune system.
If the infection persists, it can completely destroy the involved nail and also infect neighboring nails. This leads to severe pain and impairment when walking. The spread of nail fungus is also possible if the wrong treatment is applied. The situation is even more dangerous for immunocompromised people.
An untreated nail fungus will not heal at all. The fungus often spreads to neighboring toes as well. The nail bed is further destroyed and serious tissue damage can occur.
In the worst case, untreated onychomycosis (nail fungus) leads to splitting or breaking off of the affected nail. Spread to other areas, such as the skin, is also possible. Recovery on its own is very unlikely and should be treated accordingly.
However, treating nail fungus often works and improves the long-term outlook. In most cases, the locally applied active ingredients are sufficient to get rid of the nail fungus problem. It can sometimes take weeks or months for the nail to completely regenerate.