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What is Nail Fungus?

Also known as: Onychomycosis or Tinea Unguium

Nail fungus is made up of tiny organisms (Tinea Unguium) that can infect fingernails and toenails. The nails of our fingers and toes are very effective barriers. This barrier makes it quite difficult for a superficial infection to invade the nail. Once an infection has set up residence however, the same barrier that was so effective in protecting us against infection now works against us, making it difficult to treat the infection.

More than 35 million people in the United States get this fungus. The fungus lives underneath the nail. The nail provides a safe place for the fungus and protects it while it grows, since fungus like dark and damp places. This is why it’s hard to reach and stop nail fungus.

Nail polish and plastic or acrylic nails can trap moisture and fungi. Most often, nail fungus appears in the toenails because socks and shoes keep the toenails dark, warm, and moist. The toenails are 6 to 7 times more likely to be infected than fingernails. Fungi often cause the area around the base (and the sides) of the nail to become red and irritated.

At first, the edges or base of the nail is affected. As it spreads, the nail and nail bed show changes. There is often mild discomfort, itchiness, or even pain around the cuticles (flesh surrounding the nails). Bleeding or detachment of the cuticles may occur. The nail can become discolored-yellow-green, dark yellow-brown, and sometimes white spots are seen. The nails thicken and develop abnormal grooves, lines, and tiny punched out holes.

Is it Contagious?

Yes, it can be. The organisms can sometimes spread from one person to another because these critters can live where the air is often moist and people’s feet are bare. This can happen in places like shower stalls, bathrooms, or locker rooms or it can be passed around on a nail file or emery board. So, don’t share them. Nail fungus may also spread from one of your nails to other nails.

How Do You Treat Nail Fungus?

The best treatment of course is prevention. Keep your nails cut straight across. If nails are hard to cut, soften by soaking in salt water (use 1 teaspoon per gallon of water and then dry well). Keep feet dry and well ventilated. Be careful with artificial nails and be selective about choosing your manicurist. Ask about how they sterilize their instruments. See a podiatrist or your health care provider if you see signs of fungus.

Topical creams applied directly to the infected site are often used for less serious infections. Visit the foot care section of your local drug store chain. Creams include Lotrimin, Monistat, Nizoral, Tinactin, and Lamisil. If the topical treatments fail, more potent medications can be taken orally if your health care provider thinks it is necessary. Oral medications may have side effects, so tell your health care provider about any other medications, including birth control like the pill or Depo-Provera, if you are prescribed an oral medication for fungus.

The nails can reveal a lot about the body’s internal health. Healthy nails are often a sign of good health, while bad nails are often a tip off to more serious problems. A high protein diet may help your nails grow stronger and healthier.

Get Info on Nail-Rx - Effective Natural Nail Fungus Treatment - a product that works! ~ Amy, RN ~ I recommend trying this before you use a prescription medication. Anti-fungal prescriptions can have serious side effects.

Tips For Healthy Nails

To help keep you nails healthy, read the following tips:

Use nail polish remover with caution. It can dry the nails and your cuticles. Try not to repair nail enamel every day.

Watch out for signs of nail infection, including redness, pain or pus. The nail plates are porous and dry quickly. Nail polishes waterproof the nails and cause the skin under them to stay wet longer. This makes them more open to infection.

Lighter shades of nail polish help the light get through the nail. (I had a fungus once on one finger and a manicurist told me that. It took a while, but the fungus “grew out”. Use clear nail polish or light shades of pink instead of darker ones.

We don't recommend applying artificial nails over your own, because they destroy the underlying nail. The chemicals and glue used are dangerous to the body, and are readily absorbed through the damaged nail and nail bed. The use of artificial nails has been known to contribute to the development of fungal infection of the fingernails.

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