Onychomycosis is an infection of the nail caused by fungus. The fungus infiltrates the skin through the side of the nail. The fungus causes the nail to become yellow, brittle and thickened. In some cases, the nail will peel off layers, break or chip, leaving jagged edges. The big toenail and the 5thtoenail are the ones usually affected but all the nails can be affected as well.
Typically, infected toenail shows discoloration in which the nail turns to brown, black, gray, yellow or green. Nails also become brittle, cracked and thick. In some cases, nail is separated from the nail bed and the skin becomes itchy, swollen and there is redness. All of these can cause an individual to become uncomfortable and feel pain. Diabetics and those with depressed immune systems have a higher risk of developing toenail fungus and about a quarter of them have already toenail fungus. The elderly, athletes and those with sweaty feet have a high risk of developing toenail fungus too.
Types of Infection
Distal subungual onychomycosis occurs when a dermophyte enters the nail through the skin beside the nail. Proximal subungual onychomycosis first appears as a white or yellow spot on top of the nail near the cuticle. Then it gradually become a plaque and thrives on the underside of the nail. If this condition is left untreated, the nail will be separated and will shed.
What Does Pain Indicate?
The pain felt from a toenail fungus indicates that the infection has gone beyond the point and it already needs the attention from a physician or from a podiatrist. Other symptoms of the infected nail may also occur because of the fungal infection and these include paronychia and nail separation.
What Are the Treatments for Onychomycosis
There are anti-fungal powders and creams available that can prevent the infection from spreading. However, if the infection is already severe, you must consult your physician or a podiatrist. There are also available topical treatments and oral medications such as lamisil, terbinafine and ketoconozole that can be used to treat toenail fungus and can relieve the pain which this fungal infection creates. Oral medications are considered the most effective but they are costly and have side effects. They need to be taken orally for three months. Lamisil is the most popular and effective among these medications. Terbinifine is the generic form of lamisil and is much affordable.
Prescribed topical medications are more effective than the non-prescription medications. These are also somewhat expensive. Penlac nail lacquer is a kind of topical prescription medication and is applied like a nail polish. This has been shown to be safe as well as effective in treating nail fungus. Ciclopirox is the generic version of penlac and is more affordable.
How to Prevent Toenail Fungus
Not good hygiene is not the only cause of toenail fungus. To be in contact with public pools, public showers or locker rooms can make you susceptible in developing toenail fungus also. Wear shower slippers in these areas and keep your feet always dry. You should also consider wearing shoes and socks that allow your feet to breathe. Other things you can do to prevent the fungus from worsening, spreading and re-infecting are the following:
Put an anti-fungal powder or spray on your shoes daily.
Use shoes alternately and store them in a dry cool place.
Use an antiperspirant spray if your feet sweat excessively.
Avoid ill-fitting shoes.
Avoid the use of toenail polish.
Wash your feet with an anti-fungal soap to prevent re-infection of the fungus.
Toenail fungus pain, as well as the contamination itself, should not be taken lightly. You need to heed the pain you feel so you would be able to take the necessary treatments to cure the contamination.