Fungal Nail Infection

Fungal Nail Infection

Fungal infections on your feet can appear on the skin, where it is known as Athlete’s Foot, or within the toenails.

The most common presentation on the skin is in between the toes. However, it can also appear anywhere on the soles. You may have a mild rash like lesion or the more severe pus-filled lesions, which are also extremely painful.

In a fungal infected toenail, the nail becomes thicker, discoloured, and crumbly, with visible colour changes, which make the nail cosmetically very unattractive and often a source of embarrassment.

If left untreated, the fungal nail infection within the skin may progress to your toenails. Therefore, it is important to seek treatment as soon as possible.

What causes the problem?

Fungal infections can be caused by a number of different fungal species, which are most commonly picked up in communal changing areas and/or swimming pools. Athlete’s Foot can also spread from human contact, and people who sweat excessively are much more prone to infection.

Once your feet have been contaminated, the warm, dark and sweaty environment of feet crammed in shoes or trainers provides the ideal breeding ground for the fungus. However, Athlete’s Foot also occurs in dry and flaky areas. It’s quite common in summer with sandal wearers. The sun makes your skin dry out, so it loses its natural protective oils. This combined with the constant trauma from sandals makes them more prone to infection.

Is it serious?

If left untreated, the fungus can spread to the toenails causing thickening and yellowing of the nail, which is much harder to treat. Fungal infections are highly contagious and can spread to anywhere on your skin; including your scalp, hands and even your groin. This is especially likely if you use the same towel for your feet, as for the rest of your body. It is always best to treat this condition as soon as symptoms are first noticed.

Who gets it?

It’s not called Athlete’s Foot for no reason! It’s a common condition. Walking barefoot around swimming pools and spending your life in trainers makes you more likely to suffer from Athlete’s Foot. But, you do not need to be an athlete to suffer from this condition.

Anybody who’s immune system is compromised is likely to get a fungal infection. Pregnant women are also at a much higher risk of catching a fungal infection.

Many patients may get a fungal infection of their toenails following an episode of trauma to the nail. This maybe something as small as dropping a food tin on your toenail or hitting it against some furniture.

How do I prevent it?

The most important thing is to ensure your feet are completely dry after washing them, as well as before you put your shoes and socks on. However, there are many things you can do to make your feet less hospitable to fungal infections.

Firstly, change your footwear on a regular basis. There’s no point sorting your feet out if you constantly re-infect them by putting them into damp, fungal-infected shoes. It takes 24-48 hours for shoes to dry out properly, so alternate your shoes daily. To help shoes dry out more quickly, take any insoles out. Also, loosen laces and open your shoes out fully so that air can circulate. Choose trainers with ventilation holes.

If your shoes are so tight that they squeeze your toes together, this encourages moisture to gather between your toes and encourages fungus. Let air circulate between the toes by going for a wider, deeper toe box, and choose shoes made from natural materials. Off-course, you should also be changing your socks daily.

Wear flip-flops in the bathroom and in public showers. This will not only ensure that you don’t leave your dead skin around for others to pick up, but will also stop you picking up other species of fungus. Never wear anyone else’s shoes, trainers or slippers.

Treatments Options

The Podiatrist will examine your toenails and advise you on the best course of treatment depending on the severity of the symptoms.

Before any treatment plan is decided we will confirm the diagnosis of a fungal nail infection. This is a very important part of the treatment as sometimes the nail may look like its infected when it is not. Treating a toenail for fungal infections, without knowing for sure it is a fungal infection, would be a total waste of time and money. Therefore, in order to give you the most accurate treatment plan we strongly advise you to get the nail tested at our clinic.

This is a very quick and painless procedure which can be done at the time of consultation. Not only is this test reliable, the test results are given within 5-minutes, which means that there is no delay in your treatment.

Once the diagnosis has been confirmed, the Podiatrist will talk you through your treatment options.

1.  Topical Anti-Fungal Ointment

The fungal nail can be cut back and the fungus physically scrapped out. A topical anti-fungal ointment would then be applied by the Podiatrist. The patient would then need to continue with the application of the anti-fungal ointment on a weekly basis. If this treatment option was selected then the patient often needs to return every 6 weeks in order to keep the nail to a minimum, to give the best results and outcome.

2.  Lacuna Method

This relatively new treatment is changing the way Podiatrists deal with fungal nail infections. The Lacuna Method treatment for fungal nails works by painlessly drilling many tiny micro holes (fenestration) into the infected nail plate through to the skin under the nail (the nail bed). Following the first part of the treatment where the nails are micro drilled, the nails are then treated with Terbinafine spray which can get through these holes directly to the source of infection; the infected nail bed. With daily application at home of the anti-fungal agent, the infection in the nail bed is cleared and the damaged nail grows out. It should be noted that, without delivery of a fungicidal agent to the source of the infection, clearance of the infection is highly unlikely.

3.   Complete Nail Removal

In some cases, the infection maybe so severe that the patient may wish to remove the nail completely. This is a safe solution but would only be recommended when other treatment options have failed. Please view our page about Nail surgery to find out more.

4.  Nail Reconstruction

Nail Reconstruction is a corrective and restorative toenail treatment provided by the Podiatrist.

It is a flexible, UV Gel specially designed for toenails, as it is made from an extremely elastic gel resin that can bond to a surface, add strength and harden with a glossy finish, whilst at the same time adapting to the movements of the toe. The reconstructed nail is a strong adhesive and can be used on scaly nail surfaces, damaged nails, growing nails or even on calloused layers of skin where the toenail may be missing. It does, however, work best where there is some nail to adhere to.

It provides a protective covering for growing nails, or even Psoriatic nails and offers an excellent, natural looking prosthesis suitable for both men and women. We do not use any aggressive acidic primers, which damage the natural nail plate and as the gel cures to a flexible surface, it should not damage or hinder the natural nail growth. Nail reconstruction is especially useful for patients with fungal nails and although it will not treat or cure fungal nails, it is non-porous so can help limit the spread of fungal nails.

This treatment can be used in conjunction with fungal nail treatment either in the form of topical or oral anti-fungal treatment and offers a cosmetically pleasing look, providing a smooth, ridge-free base should you wish to apply nail polish.

Once the nail has been applied it will look like, and cut just like, an ordinary toenail. It may need refilling every 6-8 weeks. Certain activities, footwear and excess pressure can affect how long a nail reconstruction may last.

Are you suffering from toenail or foot problems?

See a specialist at Podiatry Station