What Is Nail Fungus

Nail fungus is a condition when a microscopic fungus enters a nail and then spreads inside to form a fungal infection. Also, known as tinea unguium and onychomycosis, nail fungus can occur in the fingernails as well as toenails.

In most cases, the infection begins as a yellow or white spot on the tip of the nail which slowly spreads and then eventually leads to massive discoloration of the nail. The nails eventually become thick and break off. It is as ugly as it is painful and needs medical attention. It takes time to cure and is prone to recur in many people but with the right medication you can get significant relief.

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Nail fungus can affect anyone at any age though majority of sufferers are above 60 years of age. Other than the seniors, those who suffer from immune disorders or diabetes could easily be affected by serious fungal nail infection.

While almost 10% of adults suffer from this condition, over 90% of elderly (above 60 years of age) definitely suffer from nail fungus which is responsible for 50% of all nail abnormalities.

The nail fungus can attack the nail as well as the skin under the nail which is called the nail bed. A small cut in the nearby skin or through the opening through the nail edges may lead to fungus formation.

For most people it is the unseemly appearance that is more bothersome in the beginning than the thought of a serious infection. For a healthy person it could be limited infection and a discolored nail but for those who are suffering from immune disorders this could be the start of a severe condition by itself.

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ZetaClear nail fungus before and after

Even for a healthy person, the right medication at the right time is important. Ignoring it will only lead to intensifying the problem. Over time, nail fungus can become quite painful leading to severe nail damage.

As the fungus spreads the thickened nail will begin to press against the shoes which will lead to added pressure, pain and irritation. With increasing damage the nail looks uglier which often leads to people hiding their nails from public eye.

This is not just a physical problem but could lead to serious social and psychological problems as well.

Symptoms of nail fungus

  • Thickened nails
  • Nail getting brittle, ragged or crumbly
  • Dull nails lacking any shine or luster
  • Distorted nail shapes
  • Debris buildup under nails leading to dark discoloration
  • Pain in severe cases

Nail fungus or onychomycosis usually come in subtypes. The condition is usually a combination of two or more these subtypes.

  • Candidal onychomycosis – There are two types of candidal onychomycosis. Onycholysis where presence of Candida yeast causes the nail to separate from the nail bed. And chronic mucocutaneous disease which the fungus attacks and affects the nail plate as well as the nail fold of both finger and toenails.
  • DLSO or DSO – distal lateral subungual onychomycosis – This is the most common form of the infection. The fungus spreads from the skin to the underside of the nail leading to inflammation as well as pain.
  • PSO – proximal subungual onychomycosis – This is rarest form of all the subtypes to occur. In this case the fungus first attacks the cuticles and then enters the nail plate through the folds.
  • WSO – white superficial onychomycosis – This is also a rare form where the fungus first attacks the nail surface and then proceeds to the nail bed.
  • EO – endonyx onychomycosis – Though not as common as the DLSO, the EO also occurs quite frequently. In this case too, the fungus enters the nail through the surrounding skin but then it proceeds to immediately affect the nail plate.

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Home Remedy Nail Fungus Treatments

Nail fungus not only leads to ugly, discolored and damage nails, it also causes undue pain and irritation. If not taken care of in time it can lead to other serious conditions.

This is unsightly and embarrassing for the sufferer but also dangerous for others since nail fungus can easily spread from one person to the other. There are many OTC as well as prescribed medications for this conditions though none too effective or fast. However, one can try a number of home remedies to treat nail fungus and see natural benefits and results.

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Nail fungus treatments – Home remedy options

Traditional and natural home remedies for treating nail fungus include –

Tea Tree Oil – A natural antiseptic, tea tree oil acts fast on the nails, kills the nail fungus and prevents further growth. Mix pure tea tree oil with olive oil and apply over affected area. Keep the nail soaked in the solution for about 15 minutes and then scrub well. This should be continued for several weeks. The healing formula will seep deep into the nail bed and heal from within. After sometime you will find the top layers of the fungus slowly disappearing from the nail surface. One can also combine it with a few drops of lavender oil which has strong anti-bacterial properties to heal faster.

Apple Cider Vinegar – This is one of the most popular home remedies for treating nail fungus. Mix apple cider vinegar with warm water and soak the nails in the solution for some time. Then pat toes or fingers dry. Vinegar is a natural exfoliator with mild acidic content which will remove the dead skin and tissues from around the nails and thereby prevent infection. This keeps skin soft and free from cracks and cuts. Other than this you can mix the vinegar with rice powder and softly rub it on the nails to exfoliate. However, make sure you apply no pressure which could lead to abrasive pain.

Listerine Mouthwash – The powerful antiseptic in Listerine can be as good for your nails as it is for your mouth. Soak your toes and fingers in the mouthwash and let the alcohol and the powerful compounds like salicylate thymol and euchalyptol. These not only prevent further growth but also slowly erode the fungus off the nail. You can make the solution even more powerful by combining Listerine with vinegar or lemon juice. For initial and less serious cases, you can pour this solution in hot water, soak your foot or finger nails for some time and then dry the nails well. For severely affected nails you might have to keep it soaked for a longer time. Soak cotton well in the solution and tie it around the affected nail with a soft cloth, keep it for as long as possible, then remove the cotton and air dry the nail.

Vicks VapoRub – The basic ingredients in Vicks VapoRub are petroleum jelly, essential oils and menthol. The very nature of the ointment makes it easy to infuse into the infected area. Deep penetration enables the whole nail to feel the healing effects and see the infection slowly recede over time. For best results apply the ointment generously over the nail and then cover your hands in gloves or your feet in cotton socks.

Green Tea Extract – Green tea extract or Camellia Sinensis is known to contain powerful antifungal properties. It can definitely affect and diminish the presence of Candida glabrata though there are no proven medical theses on its effect on dermatophytes. But it is not a stretch to believe that with all its natural goodness, green tea will quite effective in treating nail fungus.

Other natural remedies include extracts from grapefruit seeds which are rich in antimicrobial qualities; extracts of snakeroot leaves which have the ability to remove fungus from the nail surface; mixture of oregano and olive oils combine antiparasitical, antibacterial, antiseptic, antiviral, antifungal as well as analgesic effects and have been known to heal nail fungus quite effectively. One can also mix thyme and oregano oils together to treat the fungus. However, this makes for a very potent mix and caution is recommended over continuous use as it can negatively affect the organs like heart, liver and kidneys.

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What Causes Nail Fungus

A fungal attack and infection that leads to discoloration damage, irritation and pain in and around the nail is called nail fungus. It can happen to anyone but the ones to be easily affected are adult males and the elderly.

Every living being is subjected to fungal presence, even the human body. While there are some fungi that could be beneficial most are harmful. They have a tendency to live and grow on dead tissues and outer ski n layers, rapidly multiple and form infection and pain.

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Nail fungus can affect both fingernail and toe nails, though the latter is more affected usually. While a group of fungi called dermatophytes usually cause this infection, it can also be triggered by the presence of yeasts and molds. These microscopic organisms thrive in dark and moist places. If you are constantly in a hot, humid and damp interiors then chances of these mold-like infections forming on your finger and toenails are quite high. If ignored or untreated in time these infections can lead to severe illnesses.

What Causes Nail Fungus

  • Use of public swimming pools, showers and gyms and walking barefoot here
  • People who are prone to profuse sweating, especially sweaty feet
  • Ignoring minor injuries in skin
  • Nail injuries like hangnail or an ingrown toenail may lead to this condition
  • A nail disease which is not treated in time
  • Nail deformity
  • Slow nail growth
  • Wearing tight fitting and closed footwear all the time which crowds the toes and makes the feet sweaty all the time
  • Used blades and tools applied during manicures and pedicures
  • Presence of warm, wet or moist skin for too long
  • Athlete’s foot may lead to toenail fungus
  • Poor blood circulation
  • Poor immune system or severe immune disorders like psoriasis, ulcerative colitis, Crohn’s disease.
  • Other conditions that can lead to easy formation of fungus on nails are diabetes, cancer, AIDS, or prolonged steroid use.
  • Increasing age
  • Unsupervised exercises which lead to repeated injury or trauma to the tips of toenails or fingers
  • Humid or moist work environment or living conditions
  • Genetic predisposition to nail fungus

The common symptoms of nail fungus are –

  • Discoloration of nails
  • Thickening of nails
  • Crumbling, splitting and breaking of nails

For a healthy person this could just be nail damage, an ugly and unseemly part of the body but with no long term or severe side effects if taken care of in time.

But if ignored it could lead to permanent damage and severe pain. And if you are suffering from serious immune disorders then this infection could spread from the nails to other parts of the body as well, leading to serious health risks. Severe nail fungus makes it difficult to walk or stand, wear shoes for a long time and severely hamper movement.

Treating nail fungus

Nail fungus can be hard to treat, even the least harmful ones. You could opt for specialized treatment, home remedies as well as OTC medications which include topical lotions, medicated gels and antifungal creams. Covering the damaged nail polish works with women but then they are the ones to least affected by this condition.

Most of these infections take a long time to heal and go away. And even if they do they are highly prone to recur, especially in the elderly and those who suffer from serious and weakened immune conditions. The best way to heal would be to make the immune system stronger. Various home remedies and improved diet can go a long away to do this.

Healthcare providers can do a culture of the skin, study it under a microscope and do a liver test to gauge how strong or weak your system is. Once these are determined and the condition properly diagnosed you will be prescribed medications on nail fungus treatment for at least 2-3 months.