Also known as onychomycosis and tinea unguium, nail fungal infections are the most common nail diseases, making up about 50% of nail issues. Both fingernails and toenails are susceptible to the infection, which usually results in discoloration, thickening of the nail and crumbling edges.
Infections caused by fungus in fingernails may start out as a yellow or white spot beneath the nail. As this fungus spreads, the whole nail may thicken, crumble and become discolored. It can be a painful condition, and it can also be embarrassing. These infections are hard to treat, but there are medications that will help in clearing up your nail fungus.
Symptoms of Nail Fungus
There are different types of fungus that can affect your nails. They don’t all share the same symptoms and signs, although they may be similar. If your nails are thickened, ragged, crumbly or brittle, there may be a fungus at work.
Nails that are attacked by fungus are often dull in color, with no shine or luster. They can become distorted in their shape and may turn dark, which is caused by the buildup of debris under the nail. Nails can even separate from their nail beds, and this is quite painful.
Treating Nail Fungus
Fungus in fingernails is notoriously hard to treat effectively, and you may be subject to repeated infections. You can purchase anti-fungal creams without a prescription, but people describe having mixed results with these products. If you also have athlete’s foot with your nail fungus, that should be treated at the same time as the fungus.
There are oral medications that have more success with nail fungus than over-the-counter topical creams. They can be prescribed by your physician, and they are especially helpful if you have a cellulitis history or have diabetes risk factors for cellulitis. An oral medication may also work more effectively if you are experiencing a lot of pain from the infection.
The medications that your physician can prescribe will help you to grow new nails that are not infected. They accomplish this as new nail growth replaces infected portions of the nail, over time. You may need to take your medication for one to three months, and you won’t see all the positive results until your nail has completely regrown. Infections sometimes take two or more months to clear up, and you may encounter recurring infections.
Other Options for Fungus Treatment
Your physician may suggest other treatments for your nail fungus. They include anti-fungal lacquers, that will help on mild or moderate fungus infections. This product is painted on any affected nails and the skin surrounding them, one time a day. It builds up on the nails and skin and then is cleaned off after a week with alcohol. These topical lacquers need to be used for a long time period before any improvement is seen. Sometimes they don’t show results for many months.
Your health care professional may prescribe other anti-fungal, topical medications, too. They are used along with a lotion with the ingredient urea, which speeds up the absorption. The topical lotions don’t actually cure the fungus, but they work well in conjunction with oral anti-fungal medications.
Your general physician will sometimes debride the surface of infected nails, so that the infected parts are lessened and topical medications may be more effective. In some cases, your doctor may have the nail removed, although it may take months for a new nail to grow in completely.