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 to 15% of people. The risk of its development increases with age, although the fungus is often found in children. Every 10 years of life, the incidence increases 2. 5 times. If for children it is 3%, then for older people it is already 50-60%.

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 types of parasites that feed on the tissues of plants, animals and humans.

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

They are divided into three groups:

  • dermatophytes. They account for 80% of onychomycosis cases. They are characterized by high survival and viability. Found naturally in the soil;
  • Yeast-like fungi. Among them is Candida albicans (microorganisms of the genus Candida), known to women to cause thrush or vaginal candidiasis. Yeast-like fungi are 5 times more likely to affect fingernails than toenails. Toxic and disrupt the functioning of the entire organism;
  • Mold fungi. Onychomycosis caused by molds is rare. But this is the most dangerous, it progresses quickly, it can completely destroy the nail plate and spread to the adjacent tissues.

Onychomycosis affects fingernails and toenails, but toenail fungus is much more common on the feet. This is due to the fact that hands are given much more attention, they are washed more often during the day and treated with antiseptics. They are always open and well ventilated, except in winter when we wear gloves. And your feet are constantly covered in 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 their best "friends".

The causative agent of onychomycosis penetrates the nail from different directions. The most common way is from above, on the side of the free edge of the nail plate. It is also possible to enter from the side from the lateral edges or from below from the growth zone of the cuticles and nails.

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

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

Why does onychomycosis occur?

Fungi live in warm and humid places, and wherever there are such conditions, it is easy to get infected with them. For example, if you go barefoot in public bathrooms, swimming pools, showers or changing rooms at the gym, your chances of getting infected are high.

Some diseases contribute to the development of onychomycosis:

  • Diabetes. In patients with diabetes, fungi occur 3 times more often. Excess glucose in the blood creates favorable conditions for the functioning of the fungus. In the absence of sugar control and maintaining it within normal limits, the blood vessels suffer. The longer the disease, the more impaired the blood supply to the feet (diabetic foot syndrome). Wounds heal worse, infection occurs more easily;
  • Poor blood circulation in the lower limbs caused by varicose veins, atherosclerosis (narrowing of the lumen, clogging of the arteries), thrombophlebitis (formation of blood clots in the lumen of the veins);
  • Weakened immunity, immunodeficiency conditions (HIV), damage to the immune system. Reduce the body's resistance to any infections;
  • Psoriasis. 90% of people with psoriasis experience changes in the nail plate. Furrows form on it, there is turbidity, indentations appear and detachment of the nail plate occurs. These factors increase the chances of fungal infection 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:

  • poor foot and nail care, lack of daily hygiene procedures due to neglect of personal hygiene rules or difficulties in their application (for bedridden patients or patients with limited mobility);
  • work in damp, humid premises (greenhouses, greenhouses, vegetable shops), often wearing rubber gloves or rubber shoes;
  • professional sports;
  • wearing uncomfortable, narrow, narrow shoes or shoes made of artificial materials (leather), which creates a "greenhouse effect" and prevents normal air exchange.

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

In women, a frequent cause of fungus is the prolonged wearing of gel polish. It creates a closed space between the nail plate and the coating, in which a fungal infection successfully develops. It is not recommended to apply gel polish on the toenails, it is better to use an ordinary decorative polish. Also, in women, onychomycosis appears after an unsuccessful manicure or pedicure in salons where high-quality disinfection of instruments is not carried out and sterility is not maintained.

Signs of onychomycosis

Fungus most often affects the big toes.

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

  • dullness, yellowing, loss of smoothness and luster;
  • itching, redness, peeling of the skin around;
  • delamination, fragility, friability;
  • bad smell;
  • violation of the structure, thickening;

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

After an injury to the nail or the skin around it, a mandatory examination by an orthopedist for onychomycosis is required. 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 examine the nails and skin of the feet and identify changesin the early stages.

Is nail fungus dangerous?

Onychomycosis is a disease that causes more psychological discomfort than physical disease. To understand what we are talking about, just look at a photo of toenail fungus on the Internet. It is characterized by a slow course and does not cause pain, fever or other symptoms requiring 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. And the problem of psychological discomfort is temporarily solved. But, unfortunately, everything is not so simple. If you do not destroy the fungal infection, it will not disappear anywhere, but will continue to affect the nail. And onychomycosis is contagious. An infected person poses a danger to his family and others.

How to protect yourself from infection?

The best cure for nail fungus is prevention.

To protect yourself from infection, you should:

  • use medical disinfectants marked 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 the shoes, regularly disinfect and dry them, it is convenient to use electric dryers for drying;
  • treat your feet with drying agents or antiperspirants if your feet sweat a lot;
  • in the changing rooms of the pool, sauna and gym, do not go barefoot, 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 you prevent onychomycosis and keep your nails healthy and well-groomed. They are effective not only for preventing fungus, but also for other problems: calluses, calluses.

Features of the treatment of onychomycosis

Advertisements on television promise easy and quick cures for nail fungus with antifungal (fungicidal) creams, solutions, and polishes. We promise that "Medications Lamesil, Exaderil, Mikazan, Mecoderil and others penetrate deep into the structure of the nail, effectively destroy the fungus and return the nails to their previous appearance after 2-3 applications. "But why then does this self-treatment of toenail fungus give good results in a maximum of 10% of cases? Because these drugs alone are effective only in the early stages of the fungus, when the symptoms are not yet obvious and almost invisible.

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

This medicine is used in orthopedic centers and on properly prepared nails. We are not allowed to write the name of the medicine, but you can ask us any question here.

Antifungal drugs are the mainstay of treatment for onychomycosis. Without them, no matter how much we want to, we won't be able to beat the infection. But they must be used correctly and carefully. The nail fungus medicine must be applied to a previously treated and prepared nail so that it has the desired therapeutic effect.

The first thing you should do if you suspect onychomycosis is to consult a doctor who will confirm or reject the diagnosis. If necessary, he will prescribe additional examination and treatment. Choosing a remedy for nail fungus based on reviews from the Internet, advice from friends or advertising on TV will lead to a waste of time and money spent on unnecessary drugs. The same results will be obtained when trying to treat onychomycosis with traditional methods. Vinegar, garlic, onion and medicinal herbs are not able to destroy the pathogen.

An important point in the treatment of onychomycosis is the disinfection of shoes and clothes that have been in contact with the infected area. If you don't do this, you can get reinfected from your own stuff. Clothes should be washed at high temperatures (above 60 °C), ironed, and shoes should be treated with special disinfectants.

What drugs and methods are effective?

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

To combat the pathogen, use:

  • Apparatus medical pedicure. It allows you to clean areas of the nails affected by onychomycosis without blood and pain, preparing 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, after which it is 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 the fungus. In case of 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 nail fungus tablets accumulate in 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 contain the substance Clotrimazole.

Treatment methods for onychomycosis are chosen based on the severity of the symptoms and the area of the affected area. In the initial stages of the disease, hardware treatment and external fungicides are sufficient. In severe forms of infection, when the entire nail is infected with fungus, you will need to take pills and remove the nail plate. Treatment of an advanced form of onychomycosis takes 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 negatively affect the liver, so laboratory monitoring of the state of the organ is necessary while taking them.

Onychomycosis is treatable and that's the most important thing!

The sooner you see a doctor, the faster you can deal with it.

Don't be afraid and don't be embarrassed. This problem is very common and affects millions of people around the world.

When treating nail fungus at our pediatric center, you will receive:

  • joint observation of a podiatrist and a mycologist (a doctor who deals with fungal diseases);
  • 100% sterility during all procedures;
  • the possibility of collecting material (scraping of the skin and nail plate) to identify the type of fungus;
  • fast results (an average of 3-4 procedures are required);
  • Foot and shoe care recommendations that will help prevent re-infection.

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