Fungal nail infections are relatively common and are caused by certain fungi. Usually, they are mild and not serious, but their appearance can be unpleasant with the nail being discolored, thickened and distorted. The treatment is long and slow, and recurrence is common.
Mild cases don’t usually require serious medical treatments. In such situations, the following advice can be helpful;
- Keep your hands and feet dry and clean.
- Wear shoes that fit your feet well and also allow your feet to “breathe.”
- Use separate nail clippers for infected nails.
- Don’t share your personal items like clothing and towels.
- Don’t walk barefoot in public places like pools, gyms or locker rooms.
For serious infections antifungal medication is available.
Terbinafine and itraconazole, the two most commonly used tablets, are to be taken once or twice a day for several months till the infection clears up completely. Improper usage leads to recurrence. Headaches, itching, diarrhea, loss of taste and a rash, are its common side effects.
Antifungal Nail Paint
This can be used where antifungal tablets are not preferred, but they are not as effective because they don’t penetrate into the deeper skin layers. It has no side effects but has to be used for several months to ensure complete treatment.
Successful antifungal treatment is seen in 60% to 80% cases, and a healthy nail starts to grow from its base and replaces the affected nail within 6 to 18 months.
Softening and Scraping Away the Nail
Some people prefer this method to the lengthy antifungal treatment by medication. This involves softening of the infected part of the nail with 40% urea paste. After applying the paste, its covered with plasters for 24 hours. Then its scraped away with a scraping device. This process is repeated every day for 2-3 weeks. After all of the infected nail is removed, its covered with antifungal nail polish to prevent reinfection, as the new nail regrows over the subsequent months.
Usually, it’s not needed to remove the infected nail surgically completely. But the severity of infection and pain, along with the failure of other options of treatment, may serve an indication for surgical nail removal.
It’s not recommended as a routine treatment option, but it’s being used for treating stubborn fungal infections.
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