Sometimes nails are damaged through a fungal infection (onychomycosis). 90% of infections are caused by dermatophytes. The rest are caused by non-dermatophyte moulds, and yeasts such as Candida species.
Fungal infections can involve part of the nail or the entire nail. This can change the colour of the nail and cause thickening and crumbling. As it becomes worse it can cause the nail to come away from the nail bed and walking may become uncomfortable. The skin around the nail can also become swollen and painful. Fungal nails are more common in older people but are rare in children.
Sometimes fungal nails infections can develop following an Athlete’s foot infection, or they can be can be spread in communal showers as in gyms or swimming baths. The infection may be in shoes when feet become hot and sweaty.
Treatment for Fungal Nails
Many people live with the problem and choose not to treat it. However there are treatment options.
At the Foot Health Centre we can make the nail look less unsightly by reducing the thickness of the nail and remodelling the nail. Where suitable, we can use nail reconstruction to cover and build up parts of the nail. A course of laser treatment can help to improve the nail’s appearance and to stimulate the body’s immune system to fight the infection.
We have a range of topical anti-fungal agents that may be used. Our podiatrist will advise on which agent to use alongside regular podiatry treatments. The damaged nails may take 12 months to grow out and may need regular cutting, filing and shaping.
Another option is to have the infected nail removed. This is called nail avulsion. This is a minor surgical procedure, which is done using a local anaesthetic. We advise people to either combine this treatment with oral antibiotics or topical antifungal-agents to reduce the likelihood of the fungal infection coming back.
There are oral antifungal tablets that may be taken. There are one of two medications usually prescribed – terbinafine or itraconazole. These usually need to be taken for 3 to 6 months and are prescribed by your GP. For a small number of people these tablets have side effects.
Some common problems and treatments at The Foot Health Centre
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