Posts Tagged ‘fungus infection’
What are the symptoms of a Nail fungus and
how can I tell if I have a Nail Fungus Infection?
You’d think these would be fairly straightforward questions that ought to illicit simple answers. Unfortunately not only is this not true, but it is confusing enough that sometimes doctors misdiagnose nail fungus (or onychomycosis). Knowing the symptoms will assist you in helping your doctor to order the appropriate diagnostic tests so that you end up with the correct solution to your problem.
There are two basic causes of nail infections. Bacterial and fungal. Onychomiycosis, or fungal nail infection, is usually caused by a dermatophyte called Trichophyton rubrum. If not, it is caused by Candida albicans, a yeast growth (also a fungus). As nail infections differ in variety and in cause, the correct cure must be applied. A fungal infection should be treated with an anti-fungal whereas a bacterial infection should be treated with an antibiotic.
Onychomycosis affects the nail bed (skin underneath the nail) nail plate (the hard surface that we refer to as the nail) or the skin around the nail. About one third of skin infections and half of nail infections are caused by Onychomycosis. The visual signs are the abnormalities caused by the nail fungus. A white or yellowish crust appears on top of or embedded in the nail. This is the actual fungus growth. Sometimes it appears as streaks that follow the line of the nail against the infected digit (finger or toe) and sometimes it appears at the cuticle (soft area at the base of the nail). As the fungus spreads, it covers the entire surface of the nail, turning it to a milky white or yellow. Frequently it causes the nail to become ridged and deformed. This is a result of the dermaptophytes emitting destructive waste product as a result of consuming keratin. If the fungus gets underneath the nail plate, it can cause the nail bed to become irregular. This causes the nail plate to release from the bumpy nail bed and the nail becomes loose and can fall off.
If the nail fungus infection becomes severe, or if it contains Candida, the area around the nail can become swollen and sensitive to the touch. The skin may express (think ooze) pus and be very uncomfortable, even painful. These are common signs of infection. The pus is a result of white blood cells rushing to the area to fight off the infection. This is your body trying to do its job and tell you and your doctor that something is wrong.
It is most common for pus to be present in the case of bacterial infections. Thus your doctor should check for this before looking for fungal infections. To add to the confusion, there are diseases that mimic a nail fungus, including hallopeau acrodermatitis, lichen planus, nail bed psoriasis (which can occur in conjunction with fungal infection of the nail), nail bed melanoma, Reiter syndrome, yellow nail syndrome, onycholysis, and paronychia. Because of this factor, more than one test may be necessary to determine the correct course of treatment.
Different forms of onychomycosis will require different samples from the affected area. In some cases the nail can be sampled from the end or the top can be scraped for a sample, in others, the nail will need to be removed entirely. Whereas this can be a bit scary, it is also to your advantage as it then exposes the nail bed so that it can be treated.
The most typical tests performed on a nail culture to look for onychomycosis are a potassium hydroxide wash, which allows for the sample to be put under a microscope and searched for evidence of fungal growth, or a fungal culture, where the sample piece of nail is put in an environment (usually a petri dish) where it has the necessary components to thrive and create new growth, thus showing what kind of fungal infection it is. In the unlikely event that neither of these tests show positive for onychomycosis, the remaining nail sample can be pulverized and sent to a pathology lab for analysis or submitted for a bacterial culture if it is determined that the infection is bacterial instead of fungal.
Determining what kind of infection you have and what to do about it are very important when dealing with a nail infection of any kind. Having the infected area looked at by a physician, preferably a dermatologist, is the best way to deal with these diseases as they can help to rule out and diagnose serious problems as well as knowing what to do about the infection in the first place.
Your Local Gym as the Breeding Ground
for Fungus Infection
When people go to the gym, they think about getting healthy, building muscle, losing weight, an adrenaline rush, not about what might make them sick. Unfortunately the gym and public pool are both great places for the fungus that causes nail infections to breed and spread.
Why is this? Well most of these places have a place to change (even if it is just a dressing room) or a locker room with showers, even just a place out in the open to rinse off. All of these places have the potential to create colonies of fungus. As many of them have a tiled floor, the fungus likes to breed in the grout, the white glue between the tiles. When you walk over this grout with bare feet, you risk having the spores of the fungus attach themselves to you and find a way underneath your nails. How awful that you are able to take time to do something good for yourself, only to discover that you have accidentally contracted an infection, through no real fault of your own.
How Can I Prevent This?
The first thing to look at is your own footwear. If your gym shoes are old and worn out, they may be a potential breeding ground for fungus of many kinds all on their own! It may just be time to invest in a new pair of gym shoes. If you are able to, consider getting two pair so that you can rotate between them, allowing one pair to dry out thoroughly before you wear them again. Either way, make certain your shoes are dry inside before you put them on for exercise. Wear clean socks with them as socks can also hide fungal spores.
When you walk into the shower, wear some sort of rubber flip flop or shower shoe to protect the soles of your feet. Again, make certain that these dry out before you put them on as the humidity and darkness of the average shoe makes for ideal fungal breeding grounds.
Keep yourself healthy over all. If you go to the gym when you’re sick, absolutely practice good hygiene and make certain to wash your hands and feet, with soap and dry them well. The less chance of the fungus having a good place to live, the less likely they will be to grow.
And What Do I Do if I Do Become Infected?
If you catch it early, meaning your toenail has turned white or yellow at the tips but it hasn’t affected the entire nail yet, or gotten thick and brittle, you can soak your toes in vinegar. Take a large bowl or tub, fill it with half vinegar, half warm water, and soak the infected toes in it for 20-30 minutes, twice daily until the toenails have cleared up. Vinegar changes the pH of the growing environment for the nail fungus, making it “hostile”, thus harder for them to live in. White or apple cider vinegar are usually the best choices for treating a fungal nail infection.
Acrylic Nail Fungus Infections
Many people choose to have acrylic nails applied to their hands. These are usually much stronger than the normal human nail and for those whose nails are very weak, it is an excellent solution to their problem of constant breakage or unattractiveness.
However there is the potential for a fungus to get in between the acrylic nail and the natural nail and find a great place to grow. Most salons practice excellent hygiene. However some don’t. Those are probable breeding and propagating grounds for the fungus. If you have your nails done, make sure you go to a salon that sterilizes their equipment between customers and uses antibacterial products.
Sometimes there is just nothing to be done. A fungus may just invade, no matter how hard you and your salon try. This can happen if a fungus has already attached itself to your nail, and you have an acrylic one put over the top, or if an item isn’t sterilized and it passes the fungus from one infected person onto you. A trained nail specialist is supposed to be able to recognize the symptoms of nail fungus infection and will advise against putting the acrylic nail over the infected nail. This is good, as covering an infected nail just makes the infection worse. Allowing the fungus to have a good growing environment is the worst thing you can do, and having the extra protection of the acrylic nail as well as it trapping warmth and humidity creates that positive environment. Your nail specialist will advise you on treatment options or recommend that you go see a doctor.
What if I Do Become Infected?
There are some very simple treatment options if you do get an infection underneath an acrylic nail.
- Using an over-the-counter product such as Lamisil cream to rub on the affected nail and surrounding skin every day. Apply to the top and underneath the nail
- Tea Tree Oil, which is both an antiseptic and an antifungal can also be rubbed on the afflicted nail and surrounding skin every day. Apply to the top and underneath the nail.
- Cleaning the dirt and gunk out from underneath the nail is another good method as it removes possible spores and possible food sources. Wiping the cleaned area down with rubbing alcohol afterward will help to kill off the fungi already existing.
- A last resort is to go to your doctor and discuss the prescription medicine options that are available. Many of these come with serious side effects, such as potential damage to the liver, so make sure this is something you are healthy enough to do and willing to see through to the end.
Removing All of or a Portion of Your Nail
to Treat Nail Fungus – Is it Effective?
No one really knows. Little to no research has been done on removing all or part of the nail to treat a nail fungus infection. That’s because it’s sort of a last resort treatment for dealing with onychomycosis. However if you are unable to take any of the oral medications suggested for treating onychomycosis and if none of the topical solutions are effective, or if you have tried treating your nail fungus in several ways and none of them have been effective, then surgery may be an option.
Another thing to consider is if you continue to experience recurring nail fungus infections, you might need to make some dietary changes and/or do a medical cleanse to get the possible sources of infection out of your system.
How does it work?
Your options for having your nail removed are as follows:
- Complete removal – known as avulsion
- Partial removal – known as debridement
There are also two options for having these procedures done:
- Surgery – Your doctor will numb the skin around and under your nail with a local anesthetic, either topical or a shot. Then a tool will be used to separate your nail from the surrounding skin and nail bed. (Your nail bed is the skin underneath your nail. This is most commonly where a nail fungus hides and breeds.) Once the nail has been removed your nail bed and surrounding skin should heal in 2-3 weeks.
- Ointment – Your doctor will cover the skin around your infected nail to protect it (similar to taping a window or door while painting.) Then an ointment will be put on the infected nail. The infected nail is covered with a plastic dressing, which will need to be kept dry. After a week to a week and a half, your nail should be soft enough to be removed by your doctor. The exposed nail bed and surrounding skin should heal in 2-3 weeks.
After you have undergone either of these procedures, your doctor will probably recommend taking an oral antifungal medication, or putting a topical ointment on the exposed nail bed to deliver the medicine directly to the affected area.
A fingernail, once the infected portion is removed should grow back healthy within about 6 months. A toenail may take up to 18 months to grow back.
If infection continues after this procedure, your doctor may recommend completely removing the nail again and putting a chemical on the cuticle (the soft layer of skin at the base of your nail) to prevent your nail from growing back.
Does it help?
Again, no one really knows as no one has put the time and research into the effects of removing part or all of the nail to cure onychomycosis.
So far, there is one reliable study that compared taking oral antifungal medication against other types of treatment, including removing part of the nail and putting a topical antifungal medication directly on the nail bed. The results were that people who chose the oral antifungal medication were happier with their treatment outcome than people who had part of their nail removed or who used any sort of topical remedy.
Possible Side Effects?
Once your nail has been removed from the nail bed, you will need to keep it clean and dry to prevent possible further infection of the area. Your doctor may also recommend using an antibiotic cream to ensure that everything heals well and stays healthy.
Another possible problem is that the side or corner of your nail could re-grow into the skin surrounding your toe. This is referred to as an ingrown toe nail. Mild symptoms of an ingrown toenail can be treated by soaking your foot in warm salt water and then propping the ingrown porting of your toenail to encourage it to grow above the skin. A more severe ingrown toenail will require you to return to your doctor for treatment.
Onychomycosis is a broad term for many different kinds of fungal infection. Our nails are necessary parts of our body and protect the sensitive tissue beneath them from harm. Onychomycosis makes our nails look bad and become brittle with development of the disease. Treatment can be long and difficult but ultimately effective.
- The nail begins to discolor, usually to opaque white or yellow
- This usually begins at the tip of the nail and works its way down
- The nail begins to thicken and become unattractive
- As the nail thickens, it can develop darker yellow and brown spots
- The nail becomes brittle and begins to crumble or flake off
- Ultimately the nail may pull away from the nail bed and partially or entirely fall off.
- These symptoms cause people embarrassment in public because of the appearance of their nails
- Their ability to walk or feel things may be hampered by pain or discomfort because of the disease
Causes and potential hazards
Onychomycosis is an infection that anyone and everyone can contract. It is seen most commonly as people age and it affects far more of the elderly population than the younger population, beginning around 40. Seeing it in kids is fairly rare, while people who are towards the end of life seem to suffer from it frequently. These people also tend to suffer from diseases that assist the fungus growth, like diabetes and poor circulation.
The easiest way to reduce the possibility of contracting a nail fungus infection is to take good care of your nails. The healthier they are, the easier it is for them to resist infection.
Treating and Healing From this Disease
The hardest part for most people about this disease is that it takes so long to cure it. Many people get frustrated and quit, determined to endure it, before they can eradicate the fungus causing the infection.
The best way to treat a nail fungus infection is to apply an antifungal to the infected areal. There are many available treatments, topical and oral, standard medicine and alternative medicine, to choose from. The sooner this infection is caught, the easier it is to cure as once the fungus has embedded itself underneath the nail it becomes much harder to get at.
If the infection has become severe, oral antifungal medication may become a necessity, or even surgical removal of the nail.
The best solution to the whole problem is to keep your nails clean and healthy to prevent infection and if you are already infected, work to cure the infection as well.