FUNGAL INFECTION OF THE NAILS (ONYCHOMYCOSIS)
infection of the nails is one of the most common problems seen our
medical practice. We get patients with this problem on a daily basis
especially during the summer and monsoon season. This problem is
referred to as ONYCHOMYCOSIS in medical terms where onycho is nail
and mycosis indicates a fungal infection. Though majority of my patients
suffering from this problem are women this infection seems to affect
WHAT CAUSES ONYCHOMYCOSIS?
The causative agents
are fungi better known as Dermatophytes. But other types of fungi
like Molds can also cause this problem. These fungi do not need sunlight
to survive and hence thrive in warm, moist environments such as swimming
pools, showers, damp areas. These fungi enter the nails or your skin
through tiny cracks or cuts or even through a separation between
your nail and nail bed. If you have a tendency to perspire a lot
in your palms and soles then you are at risk for developing fungal
infection of the nails. The other risk factors are listed below.
1. Age – this is one of the main risk factors for Onychomycosis.
This is because the older you are the slower is the rate of growth
of your nails. Also as you age your nails tend to thicken making
them more susceptible to getting infected.
2. Diabetes and other
chronic disorders – if you are diabetic or have some other
chronic problems like poor circulation or a weakened immune system
then you are risk for developing infection of the nails.
3. Injury – any
injury or damage to the nails can give an opportunity for the fungi
to enter and multiply causing infection.
4. Smoking – adding
to the list of health hazards caused by smoking, onychomycosis is
another reason to quit today if you are a smoker.
5. Work environment – if
you are working in a hot and humid environment then you are at risk
for getting fungal infections of the nails.
6. Socks and Shoes – if
you are wearing socks or shoes which do not allow your feet to breathe
then watch out for onychomycosis. If there is no ventilation the
perspiration produced during the day remains and does not get absorbed
therefore leading to problems.
7. Walking Barefoot – this is
unique to our culture. We tend to walk barefoot in our houses and
also in certain public places. This gives the fungus an opportunity
to enter our nails and skin and cause problems. Fungal infections
tend to affect the toenails more than fingernails because toenails
are mostly confined to a dark, moist environment inside your shoes.
Also if there is a family history of this problem you are more at
risk than if there is no family history.
WHAT ARE THE SIGNS AND SYMPTOMS
Normally most people first notice a tiny spot
white or yellow in colour below the nail. This then spreads and your
nail thickens gradually. Also the nail becomes brittle and crumbles
from the slightest pressure. The shape eventually gets distorted
and ragged. They can appear flat, dull due to the loss of luster
and shine. The colour can change to yellow, green, black. This is
due to the debris, which gets collected below the affected nail.
Finally the entire nail may separate from the nail bed and fall off.
This can be very painful at times. There may be an offensive smell
coming from the nail. If you are diabetic or have a poor immunity
then this infection may spread causing the formation of an open sore
or ulcer. This is a serious complication, which should be tackled
immediately. The nail can be damaged permanently if not treated correctly
and in time.
HOW CAN THIS PROBLEM BE PREVENTED? The best way
to avoid fungal infections is to maintain a high level of hygiene.
Here are a few tips on how to care for your hands and feet.
keep your fingernails and toenails short. Cut them straight and file
down the thickened areas. Also make sure that they are dry and clean.
After having a bath dry the toenails and even the area between the
2. Avoid putting your hands or feet in water constantly.
3. Watch out for your manicures and pedicures.
If the manicure or pedicure is done in a wrong way or with using
contaminated instruments then you are at risk for developing onychomycosis.
4. Too much nail polish and or wearing artificial
nails tends to trap moisture, which will allow the fungi to thrive.
5. As mentioned earlier walking barefoot in damp
or public places like swimming pools and showers makes you more susceptible
to acquiring this infection.
6. Do not tear the skin around the nails
r trim it. The slightest injury or cut allows the fungi to enter
7. Wear cotton socks, which will absorb the moisture
and keep your feet dry. It is a good habit to remove your shoes occasionally
especially after exercising. If possible alternate between wearing
open-toe and closed-toe shoes.
TREATMENT FOR ONYCHOMYCOSIS?
are several over the counter medications available for fungal infections.
Over the counter anti-fungal creams and powders are the most popular
however they are not very effective and have their own side-effects.
Anti-fungal drugs are next to be prescribed however even these can
cause severe side-effects ranging from skin rashes to liver damage.
They are also not very effective and eventually the infection recurs.
The patient should be given the correct Homoeopathic remedy in order
to cure the problem and not just give temporary relief. Here are
a few remedies found effective in cases of Onychomycosis.
If the nails are thick, brittle, and grow out of shape then
this remedy should be thought of. Here the edge of the nail is discoloured,
yellowish or blackish. The nails grow slowly and split. These individuals
also have a tendency to develop warts and other skin problems. Antimonium
Crud 30, 5 pills four times a day will improve the quality of the
nails and treat the infection.
This remedy is said to
be the Homoeopathic specific for hard nails and onychomycosis in
old age. Here the nails grow unevenly, some areas are thick whereas
some are very thin and break easily. They are usually discoloured
looking blackish. Fluoric acid nails crumble very easily and have
a corrugated appearance. Sometimes the nail may be sore to touch.
Fluoric Acid 200, 5 pills given four times a day should help in these cases.
a wonderful remedy for many problems arising from cold damp weather
and working in wet conditions. Here the nails looked ribbed and are
brittle. They become soft and discolouration takes place. A thuja
patient suffers from acrid foot sweat with predisposes him to develop
fungal infections. The nails crumble on slight touch and become distorted.
Thuja 200, 5 pills four times a day will remove
the fungal infection.
In Graphites the nails appear thick,
black, and rough. A thin sticky discharge may be secreted by the
affected toenail. The nail looks crippled and deformed. Sometimes
this condition can be painful as the root gets inflamed. A graphites
patient suffers from offensive foot sweat which aggravates the fungal
infection. The skin is also prone to develop cracks and fissures.
Graphites 30, 5 pills in repeated doses will help
cure this infection.
This article has been written in order to make
the reader aware of what onychomycosis or fungal infection of the
nails is. Also before using any of the over the counter remedies
or listening to what your manicurist says consult your Homoeopath
for this purpose.