Fungal Nail Infection: Visible, But Often Missed Or Ignored...
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Fungal Nail Infection: Visible, But Often Missed Or Ignored...

Fungal nail infections can hit people of all ages. Yet, despite its appearance, people often fail to notice it or just completely ignore the problem, mistakenly thinking that it will just go away; and then realising too late that it has spread or done a lot of toenail damage and discomfort.

These fungal toenail infection is known as Onychomycosis. Other names are also used, i.e. nail ringworm and  'tinea unguium'. It is said to be the most common disease of the nails.

Dermatophytes, Candida, and non-dermatophytic molds cause these infections. These pathogens love to colonise nails that are enclosed in dark, damp, filthy, sweaty, smelly environments.

Thickened, discoloured and smelly nails are the most common indication of a fungal nail infection. In certain cases, if one looks at the edge of the affected toenail (top view), especially on the big toes, it resembles cut 'rice crispies'. The infection progresses from the distal end of the nail to its upper or proximal end. As the toenail becomes brittle, it breaks off or crumbles completely with the slightest touch or pressure. There may be white, yellow or yellow brown patches on the nail bed or scaly skin next to the nail. The nails can become very thick, and underneath these can be found debris build up. Onychomycosis can cause psychosocial problems, as unsightly smelly nails can put people off and likewise make those infected by the fungi lose their self-esteem.

Ageing, diabetes, and people with a compromised immune system (for example cancer patients and diabetics), those with poor hygiene habits  or have a family history of the disease are at greater risk.
To prevent getting the infection or avoid a recurrence, the following are recommended to stop fungi from devouring the nails:

  • Clean and disinfect shoes, especially the insoles, regularly.
  • Always use a fresh clean pair of socks, tights or stockings daily. Never re-use filthy, wet or sweaty ones (which some people tend to tuck inside the shoes for days on end).
  • Avoid sharing towels or personal foot items with other people.
  • Avoid wet shoes, footwear that are very tight, have hard insoles and inners, no arch support, lack ventilation or encourage fungal growth;
  • Do not go barefoot in public places such as swimming pools, gyms, shower rooms, train or underground stations. Best to wear rubber flip flops, rubber clogs or sandals. 
  • Always thoroughly clean the body (and feet) after  work-outs or swimming sessions. Likewise, best to take a shower before such sessions, or when leaving (to go to toilet, for example) and then re-entering swimming pool ( to avoid spreading any potential infection). On each occasion, ie. leaving (take a shower) and re-entering (take another). Alternatively, if there are feet disinfectant dips available at the pool area, these can also be used).
  • Basic hygiene practices such as cleaning and drying the feet properly, in particular paying close attention to the areas between the toes, the sulcus and edge of the toenails. A small toenail brush can be very useful. Avoid wearing socks or stockings while feet are still wet. Dry them first. A hair dryer can be handy. 
  • A clean home and floors can also help.  Avoid spitting in walking areas or in public, it scatters pathogens.

Best to spot the infection early to prevent further damage to the toenails and other undesired effects. The infection can be treated, so do not worry. AAA Foot Health's mobile service can help intervene and get rid of the nasty infections.--jareyes

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