Nail fungus (onychomycosis): what you need to know about treatment and prevention?

Nail fungus or onychomycosis (medical name) is a disease that occurs when the nail plate is affected by a fungal infection. Onychomycosis affects 5-15% of people. Despite the fact that the fungus is often detected in children, the risk of its development increases with age. In each 10 years of life, morbidity increases 2. 5 times. If it is 3% in children, it is already 50-60% in elderly people.

nail fungus symptoms


Onychomycosis is caused by microorganisms from the fungal kingdom. The world of mushrooms is diverse, and not all of them are as pleasant as champignons, chanterelles or honey mushrooms that we are used to seeing on our table. There are microscopic parasitic species that feed on the tissues of plants, animals and humans.

The causative agent of onychomycosis consumes the protein keratin, which is part of the upper (keratinized) layer of the nail plate, hair and skin. About 50 representatives of parasitic fungi that can cause disease are known.

They are divided into three groups:

  • Dermatophytes. They account for 80% of onychomycosis cases. They are characterized by high survivability and vitality. Found naturally in soil;
  • Yeast-like fungi. Among them is Candida albicans (microorganisms of the genus Candida), known to women, which causes candidiasis of the liver or vagina. Yeast-like fungi are 5 times more likely to affect fingernails than toenails. It is toxic and disrupts the work of the whole body;
  • Mold fungi. Onychomycosis caused by molds is rare. But it is the most dangerous, it progresses rapidly, it can completely destroy the nail plate and spread to neighboring tissues.

Onychomycosis affects nails and toenails, but nail fungus is more common on the feet. This is due to paying more attention to hands, washing them more often during the day and treating them with antiseptics. They are always open and well ventilated, except in winter when we wear gloves. And your feet are constantly covered with street shoes, house slippers, tights, socks and sweat more. These factors create ideal conditions for the development of foot fungus, because heat and moisture are its best "friends".

The causative agent of onychomycosis penetrates the nail from different directions. The most common way is from above, from the side of the free edge of the nail plate. It is also possible to introduce it from the side ridges or from below the cuticle and nail growth zone.

Onychomycosis is most dangerous near the cuticle. In this case, the fungus slows down or stops the division of cells of the growth zone under the lower nail layer - onychoblasts. The nail stops growing in length and infected areas may not heal. A pathological change occurs in the structure and destruction of the nail.

Fungi rarely penetrate the nail plate directly. First, their spores enter the skin around the nail or the spaces between the fingers through micro-cracks, cuts, scrapes, abrasions and calluses. Then the colony begins to grow, the pathogen moves to the nail plate, penetrates it and begins to parasitize.

Why does onychomycosis appear?

Fungi live in hot and humid places and it is easy to get infected where such conditions exist. For example, if you walk barefoot in bathrooms, swimming pools, showers, or gym locker rooms, your chances of getting infected are high.

Some diseases contribute to the development of onychomycosis:

  • Diabetes. Fungus is 3 times more common in diabetic patients. Excess glucose in the blood creates favorable conditions for fungi to work. If there is no sugar control and keeping it within normal limits, the blood vessels suffer. The longer the disease lasts, the more impaired the blood supply to the feet (diabetic foot syndrome). Wounds heal worse, infection occurs more easily;
  • Weak blood circulation in the lower extremities caused by varicose veins, atherosclerosis (narrowing of the lumen, blockage of the vessels), thrombophlebitis (formation of blood clots in the lumen of the vessels);
  • Weakened immunity, immunodeficiency states (HIV), damage to the immune system. Reduce the body's resistance to any infections;
  • Psoriasis. 90% of people suffering from psoriasis experience changes in the nail plate. Grooves are formed on it, there is cloudiness, depressions appear and the nail plate breaks off. These factors increase the chance of infection with a fungus by 1. 5-2 times;
  • Hyperhidrosis, or excessive sweating of the feet, often causes onychomycosis in men;
  • The presence of a focus of fungal infection in other parts of the body.

The risk group includes the elderly.

The cause of onychomycosis is often associated with the characteristics of the profession and improper care of the feet:

  • lack of daily hygiene procedures due to poor foot and nail care, neglect of personal hygiene rules or difficulties in their implementation (in bed patients or patients with limited mobility);
  • working in damp, wet places (greenhouses, greenhouses, vegetable warehouses), often wearing rubber gloves or rubber shoes;
  • professional sports;
  • wearing uncomfortable, tight, narrow shoes or shoes made of artificial materials (leather) that create a "greenhouse effect" and prevent normal air exchange.

Predisposing factors for the development of onychomycosis include damage to the nail or surrounding tissues, taking antibacterial or hormonal drugs.

A common cause of acne in women is long-lasting gel polish. It creates a closed space between the nail plate and the cover, where a fungal infection successfully develops. It is not recommended to apply gel varnish on toenails, it is better to use ordinary decorative varnish. Also, onychomycosis in women appears after an unsuccessful manicure or pedicure in salons where the tools are not disinfected with high quality and sterility is not maintained.

Symptoms of onychomycosis

Most often, the fungus infects the big toes.

The following changes in the nail plate indicate a fungal infection:

  • paleness, yellowing, loss of smoothness and brightness;
  • itching, redness, peeling of the surrounding skin;
  • delamination, fragility, fragility;
  • unpleasant smell;
  • violation of the structure, thickening;

If you find yourself with at least one of the listed symptoms, you should immediately consult a doctor who treats nail fungus. This can be a podiatrist, dermatologist or mycologist.

After damage to the nail or the skin around it, a mandatory examination by a podiatrist is required to check for onychomycosis. If there are predisposing factors (varicose veins, diabetes, atherosclerosis, weakened immunity, excessive sweating of the feet, etc. ), it is recommended to have a medical pedicure once a month, during which the doctor will carefully check the nails and skin. identifies changes in the legs and early stages.

Is nail fungus dangerous?

Onychomycosis is a disease that causes more psychological distress than physical disease. To understand what we are talking about, it is enough to look at the photo of toenail fungus on the Internet. It is characterized by a slow course and does not cause pain, fever or other symptoms that require emergency medical attention.

People are in no rush to treat nail fungus. After all, when the affected area is small, you can paint it with varnish, wear socks or closed shoes in front of strangers. The problem of psychological discomfort is temporarily solved. But, unfortunately, not everything is so simple. If you do not destroy the fungal infection, it will not disappear anywhere, but it will continue to affect the nail. And onychomycosis is contagious. An infected person poses a danger to his family and others.

How to prevent infection?

The best treatment for nail fungus is prevention.

To protect yourself from infection, you need:

  • Use medical disinfectants with the inscription GOST (capable of killing onychomycosis, tuberculosis, hepatitis, HIV);
  • monitor the condition of the feet and nails, the main rule is that the feet are clean and dry;
  • take care of shoes, regularly disinfect and dry them, it is convenient to use electric dryers for drying;
  • if your feet sweat a lot, treat your feet with drying agents or antiperspirants;
  • do not walk barefoot in the pool, sauna and gym locker rooms, but wear rubber flip-flops with closed toes;
  • wear comfortable shoes made of natural, breathable materials;
  • Do not use other people's towels, shoes or manicure accessories.

These tips will help prevent onychomycosis and keep your nails healthy and well-groomed. They are effective not only to prevent fungi, but also to prevent other problems: calluses, corns.

Features of the treatment of onychomycosis

Television commercials promise easy and quick treatment of nail fungus using antifungal (fungicidal) creams, solutions, and varnishes. We are promised that "Lamesil, Exaderil, Mikazan, Mekoderil and other drugs penetrate deep into the structure of the nail, effectively destroy the fungus and return the nails to their previous appearance in 2-3 applications. "So why does this self-treatment for nail fungus only work well in 10% of cases? Because these tools themselves are effective only in the initial stages of the fungus, when the symptoms are still unclear and almost invisible.

Manufacturers often lie, saying that drugs are produced in Europe and contain good active ingredients. In practice, the most effective drug for nail fungus (onychomycosis) contains Clotrimazole. Most drugs are simply very well advertised and expensive, but do not contain the required substance. You cannot buy specialized drugs in ordinary pharmacies, even if the required name is written, the chemical composition will not contain it, because the production is very expensive.

This drug is used in podiatry centers and properly prepared nails. We are not authorized to write the name of the drug, but you can ask us any question here.

Antifungal drugs are the mainstay of onychomycosis treatment. Without them, we will not be able to overcome the infection, no matter how much we want to. But they should be used correctly and thoughtfully. The medicine for nail fungus must be applied to a pre-treated and prepared nail in order to achieve the desired therapeutic effect.

If you suspect onychomycosis, the first thing you should do is see a doctor who will confirm or deny the diagnosis. If necessary, he will prescribe additional examination and treatment. Choosing a remedy for nail fungus based on reviews on the Internet, advice from friends or advertisements on television will result in wasted time and money on unnecessary drugs. The same results will be obtained when trying to treat onychomycosis with traditional methods. Vinegar, garlic, onions, herbs are not able to destroy the pathogen.

An important point in the treatment of onychomycosis is the disinfection of shoes and clothes that come into contact with the infected area. If you don't, you can re-infect yourself from your belongings. Clothes should be washed at high temperature (above 60 °C), ironed, shoes should be treated with special disinfectants.

What drugs and methods are effective?

Treatment of onychomycosis in the initial stages is easier and faster than in advanced cases. How to treat nail fungus?

To fight the pathogen, use:

  • Apparatus medical pedicure. It allows you to clean the areas of nails affected by onychomycosis without blood and pain, prepares them for the use of antifungal agents;
  • Keratolytics. These are topical nail fungus medications that are applied to the affected nail to remove it painlessly. They loosen, soften and dissolve the nail plate, which is then easily removed with pedicure tools. Keratolytics facilitate the treatment of onychomycosis, remove the infected area, stimulate the growth of a new healthy nail plate;
  • Fungicides. The action of these drugs is aimed at destroying fungi. For onychomycosis, they are used locally in the form of varnishes, solutions, ointments, creams and internally in the form of tablets. When taken internally, the active ingredients of tablets against nail fungus accumulate on the skin and nail plate. They suppress the activity of fungal enzymes, disrupt the permeability of cell membranes and cause the death of the pathogen. The most effective ones contain Clotrimazole.

Treatment methods for onychomycosis are selected according to the severity of symptoms and the area of the affected area. In the initial stages of the disease, hardware treatment and external fungicidal agents are sufficient. In severe forms of infection, when the entire nail is infected with fungus, it is necessary to take pills and remove the nail plate. Treatment of an advanced form of onychomycosis lasts from 3 months to 1 year and depends on the speed of nail growth.

Topical fungicide preparations are safe for health, but not always effective. Tablets have a negative effect on the liver, so when taking them, laboratory monitoring of the state of the organ is necessary.

Onychomycosis can be treated and that's the main thing!

The sooner you see a doctor, the sooner you can get over it.

Don't be afraid and don't be ashamed. This problem is very common and affects millions of people all over the world.

When treating nail fungus at our podiatry center, you will:

  • joint observation of a podiatrist and a mycologist (a doctor dealing with fungal diseases);
  • 100% sterility during all procedures;
  • the ability to collect material to determine the type of fungus (scraping the skin and nail plate);
  • fast results (3-4 procedures are required on average);
  • Foot and shoe care tips to help prevent re-infection.

It is important for us that the problem does not return, that your nails are healthy and beautiful!