Fungal infections are common in nails, and occur most often in toe nails. Termed as onychomycosis, nail fungus affects the keratin, the hard material that makes up the nail and can include the entire nail or a portion of the nail, along with the nail root, plate or bed. It gradually leads to thickening, distortion and discoloration of the nails.
Fungi grow well in warm and moist environments so your risk of developing an infection is increased if you use public pools, wear shoes that make your feet sweat, or live in hot and humid places. Certain conditions such as athlete’s foot, diabetes or psoriasis, poor general health, and a weakened immune system because of HIV/AIDS, chemotherapy and organ transplantation, may make you more prone to fungal infections.
When you present to the clinic with a fungal infection, your doctor may scrape debris from under your skin, cut the affected nail or drill a hole at the affected site, and examine the sample under a microscope to identify the causative fungus.
To treat nail infections, buff the nails as thin as possible while wearing gloves as the fungus is contagious. Apply vicks vapor rub to the nails 1-2 times daily. Other topical antifungals may also be tried. Any oral anti-fungal medication must be prescribed and monitiored by a medical doctor. Intractible toe nail infections can also be treated with avulsion of the affected nail.
Nail infections can be prevented by wearing comfortable shoes and socks that provide aeration, maintaining good foot hygiene and keeping your nails trimmed short.