Fungal Nail Infections. What are they & why treat them?
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Fungal nail infection (also known as onychomycosis) refers to an infection of the toe or finger nails by fungi (dermatophytes). The prevalence is estimated between 20-25% of the population. It is important to treat fungal nail infection as soon as possible because the infection is contagious. In most cases fungal nail infections tend to look unhygienic. The infection usually starts at the rim of the nail, which changes colour to whitish-yellow, brown or green. The fungus grows under or into the nail causing the nail plate to thicken and crumble. Sometimes the nail becomes partially or completely detached, which may be painful. In some cases the nail will completely release from the toe or finger.
Nails are infected by fungus due to nail (sports)trauma, excessive moisture, heat, perspiration or poor foot hygiene. Fungi are therefore typically found in bathrooms, dressing rooms and showers within sports clubs, around swimming pools and sauna's. In instances of athlete's foot (this is a different kind of fungus that can be found on top of the skin between the toes) there is a chance of contamination and this fungus can also lead to fungal nail infections.
How do you know you have a fungal nail infection? It's not always easy to confirm, but there are a number of common symptoms that point it that direction:
- Discolouration of the nail rims (yellow, brown or green) and/or white spots on the nail.
- Full discolouration of the nail from whitish-yellow to yellowish-brown.
- Hardening and thickening of the nail.
The prevalence is estimated between 20-25% of the population*. Some facts that shed more light on the current issues surrounding fungal nail infections:
- Fungal nail infections almost exclusively happen to adults, the condition is rare for children. The condition also affects men and women alike.
- Most cases of fungal nail infection affect the toenails, especially the big toe; it is much less common in the fingernails.
- Fungal nail infections are the most common among nail ailments. They are responsible for the majority of all nail-related problems.
*Quantitative consumer research (MRC/GIM, France, October 2014)
WHY TREAT FUNGAL NAIL INFECTIONS?
Fungal nail infection (onychomycosis) is a progressive disease. If it is left untreated, the infection spreads. To start with, you may only see white spots or patches on the nail. They only affect the cosmetic appearance of the nail, initially there is no pain. If your nail is showing symptoms it is important to take immediate action, because the fungus will gradually spread throughout the nail. Unless it is treated, you run the risk of the nail becoming brittle or even losing the nail permanently. The infection can spread from one fingernail or toenail to another, and also from one person to another.