Like many other fungal conditions, a nail fungus just loves warm, moist, sweaty places such as a sock or shoe that has been worn for too long! And we give this condition all the help it needs to spread when we notice a white or yellow spot under the tip of our fingernail or toenail and we don’t do anything about it.
As this nail fungus spreads deeper into the nail, it may cause discoloration, thickening and the nail can develop crumbling edges which are a very unsightly and potentially painful problem.
The fungus can spread to other nails and to other people and once fungus gets into the nails, it can be very stubborn to deal with.
Back to basics
We need to know that nails are essentially hardened skin cells. Made mostly of keratin, which is the same protein found in the skin and the hair, nails are made by the living cells in our fingers and toes. These living cells begin in the matrix (the name given to that hidden half moon area under the cuticle). As new skin cells grow in the matrix, the older cells are pushed forward, harden and become a visible nail.
What are the most common types of fungi affecting the skin?
These are dermatophytes, onychomycosis and yeast (Candida).
While all of these types can infect our nails, the first two tend to be more common in toenails while yeast infections are seen more frequently in fingernails.
Just a word of warning - if a dark spot or streak appears on your nail and it is not the result of an injury; it should be examined by a dermatologist as it could be the sign of a melanoma which is the most lethal form of skin cancer.
is a chronic skin condition and this also cause problems with your fingernails. The appearance of psoriasis in your nails would show up as pitting, rippling and a reddish brown discoloration. You can treat any fungal conditions in your nails as well as psoriasis.
Look after your nails by following these tips
- Keep nails clean and dry as this helps prevent bacteria and other infectious organisms such as fungus from collecting under the nails.
- Cut nails straight across, rounding them slightly at the tips for maximum strength using sharp nail scissors or clippers. If you file nails into points, you will weaken them.
- Keep nails shaped and free of snags by filing them with a fine textured file.
- If you bite your fingernails, do your best to stop the habit by applying special foul tasting nail polishes or liquids to the nail. If nail biting is severe, it may be a sign of anxiety or a compulsive disorder and therapy may be appropriate. Never bite off the cuticles.
- The use of false fingernails can lead to nail fungus starting.
- Trim the toenails regularly to keep them short as this minimizes trauma and injury.
- Look after your feet and toenails by soaking them in warm salt water (one teaspoon of salt per pint of water) for 5 to 10 minutes when toenails are thick and difficult to cut. Then apply urea or lactic acid cream to soften the nail and make them easier to trim.
- Another trick is to soak your toes in Listerine mouthwash as this powerful antiseptic leaves your toenails looking healthy. You don't want to use Listerine in your mouth though! It is not a healthy choice.
- Never try to dig out ingrown toenails – you need to see a dermatologist for treatment.
- Always dry off feet thoroughly after bathing or exercise.
- Be careful what footwear you use. Shoes that cannot breathe and are damp or wet will encourage fungus to start or spread.
- At the first sign of a nail fungus, use a topical treatment and continue with it until all signs of the fungus are gone.
- Be careful of damp areas such as public gyms, showers stalls or swimming pools as contagious toe nail fungus can be picked up.
- Finally, diet plays a vital role in curing fungal conditions so include more probiotics in your diet such as yogurt and kefir while reducing or eliminating your consumption of sugar, dairy products and vinegar.
Start treatment for nail fungus
as soon as you notice a problem because the condition is contagious. It may spread to other nails or develop an infection.
You do not want it to develop into green and unsightly nails.