What is Nail Fungus?

Nail fungus is a common problem amongst adults, affecting both men and women. Incidence increases with age as the nail weakens and becomes more vulnerable to infection. Nail Fungus is the most common issue affecting nails and although most common in the toenails, fingernails can also be infected by this disease.

Nail Fungus can look unsightly and may cause embarrassment. Typically, the nail becomes thicker and changes to a yellowish-brown. The infection can spread to the surrounding nails and even the skin. It can also be contagious, spreading from one nail to another, and from one person to the other. Therefore, it is important to treat nail fungus as soon as symptoms arise and the infection has been diagnosed.

What causes Nail Fungus?

Nail Fungus is caused by three types of fungi: dermatophytes, yeasts, and non-dermatophyte moulds. Fungi are simple parasitic plant organisms that do not need sunlight to grow. Toenails are particularly susceptible as fungi prefer dark damp places. Swimming pools, changing rooms and showers typically harbour these types of fungi. Chronic diseases such as diabetes, problems with the circulatory system, immune deficiency disease as well as a history of athlete’s foot or excess perspiration also increase the chances of developing nail fungus.

Who suffers from Nail Fungus?

Nail fungus typically occurs more in older people because the ageing process causes nails to become less moisturised and for cracks to appear. This is why children are less susceptible to nail fungus because their nails are usually stronger, healthier and without cracks. If nails are cracked, naturally fragile or weakened as a result of an injury, it is easier for the fungi to infect the nail.

What complications can arise?

Nail fungus does not usually go away by itself and complications may arise if left untreated. Nail fungus can be painful and cause permanent damage to nails. A common complication is an ingrown nail.

Nail fungus can create an abnormally shaped toenail that then becomes ingrown. An ingrown nail grows into the skin instead of over it. This usually happens to the big toe but it can also occur in others nails too. An ingrown toenail can become infected making it red, swollen and containing pus. People with curved or thick nails are more likely to have an ingrown toenail and this is more common in older adults.

How can nail fungus be prevented?

Tips to maintain healthy nails and prevent fungal nail infections:

  • Avoid wearing synthetic tights or socks
  • Wear socks made of natural material such as wool. If they get damp, change them to keep your feet dry
  • Wear sandals or dry airy shoes made of material that allows moisture to escape
  • Do not share your shoes, socks or nail scissors with anyone else
  • Always dry your feet thoroughly, especially between the toes
  • Wear flip-flops when using a public pool or shower. Avoid bare feet in public areas
  • Do not let nail polish remain on for too long and avoid applying new layers over old ones
  • Avoid injuring your nail. This can happen when wearing shoes that are too small or by cutting nails too short
  • Apply a preventative treatment such as Nailner, Thoroughly wash and dry your feet or hands and apply directly to your nail. By applying Nailner once a day, recurrent nail infections can be prevented.