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Understanding Fungal Nail Infections: Causes, Prevention and Treatment

Fungal toenail infections are something we often see in our clinic, and we get asked about them on a regular basis. Clinically known as onychomycosis, a fungal nail infection is a common condition which can cause the nails to become discoloured, thick, fragile or cracked. In some instances, the nail may also separate from the nail bed. 

Here we will talk you through:

  • What exactly toenail fungus is and what causes it

  • The prevention and treatment options available

What is a fungal toenail infection?

Fungal toenail infections are a fungal infection of the nail matrix which causes the nail to become discoloured. Toenail fungus can cause a number of symptoms , such as a fungal mould smell and cause the nail to crumble, thicken and appear discoloured. It’s important to note that a fungal nail can also spread to non-fungal nails, which is why treatment is essential as early as possible. 

Whilst it more commonly occurs on the toenails rather than the fingernails, fingernails are not entirely exempt.

The infection is primarily caused by multiple types of fungi, including trucopytin rubrum,  yeasts such as candida albicans and fungal spores, which thrive in warm, moist environments. Once the fungi penetrate the nail bed, they feed on keratin, the protein that makes up the nails, leading to the characteristic symptoms of nail fungus.

Signs to look out for include the nail(s) appearing to be yellow, bruised and have a mouldy smell, in addition to thickening and crumbling. The presentation of nail fungus may differ depending on the type of fungus causing the infection, so it’s always worth checking with a Podiatrist.

How to Prevent Toenail Fungus

Preventing toenail fungus involves adopting good foot hygiene practices and minimising exposure to risk factors, such as:

  • Keeping the feet clean and dry: washing them daily with liquid soap and water, and  drying the feet thoroughly, especially between the toes and squeezing the nail plates dry after a showe, as fungi thrive in damp environments.

  • Choosing Breathable Footwear: opting for shoes made from breathable materials, such as leather or canvas will allow air circulation and to minimise moisture buildup.

  • We’ve said this before on our previous blog on how to prevent verrucas, but wearing protective footwear or waterproof guard socks in public areas such as swimming pools and changing  rooms will reduce the risk of cross contamination.

  • Avoid sharing personal items such as socks, shoes or nail clippers, as these items harbour fungal elemyand spread infections.

  • Using natural antifungal foot products such as our best selling cleansing and Hydrating Foot Cream helps to keep the skin balanced and minimise fungal growth, particularly if your feet  frequently sweat, you have hyperhydrosis or have a history of fungal skin infections such as athletes foot. 

How to Treat Nail Fungus

The fastest way to eradicate fungal nail infections is by visiting a Podiatrist, as they can offer a range of treatments that extend far beyond over-the-counter medications.

One of those treatments is cold laser therapy for fungal nails. At The Footlift London Clinic, we have the evidence-based Erchonia Lunula Machine, which is a non thermal laser machine that has been designed to treat and eradicate nail fungus. 

The cold laser uses violet and infrared laser lights, and each light is capable of stimulating a specific cascade to effectively and safely treat nail fungus and tinea pedis (athlete’s foot) in between the toes. Up to six 12-

minute treatment sessions are required for the affected nails on the affected foot.

Nail fungus causes the nail plates to dry out, crack and thicken, we recommend applying The Cleansing and Hydrating Nail Drops which include antifungal active ingredients such as tea tree, almond oil, spearmint and lime, daily application will both cleanse and hydrate the affected nails. Cutting the nails with clean tools once every two weeks

and filing the top of the nail plates on a weekly basis will reduce the thickness of the nail and disturb the fungal environment.

Drying the toenails properly after a bath or shower helps to disturb the environment that the fungal elements are living in, and washing socks on a 60 degree wash also contributes to good foot hygiene.

And whilst an internet search might tell you that Vicks VapoRub will cure a fungal nail infection, this is in fact incorrect.

If you suspect that you have symptoms of a fungal infection, book a consultation with a Podiatrist sooner rather than later to minimise the infection spreading and ensure effective treatment. 

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