Fungal nail infection, also called onychomycosis, is usually caused by a fungus that belongs to the group of dermatophytes, but yeast and molds may also be liable for this condition. All these organisms live in warm, moist environments like swimming pools and showers and they may penetrate the skin through tiny tears, especially if you are continuously exposed to heat and humidity, which are the perfect conditions for the growth and proliferation of fungus.
The nail fungal infection occurs more frequently in toenails than in fingernails, because toenails are often exposed to moisture inside the shoes. Another possible reason is that the blood flow directed to the toenails is less than that directed to the fingernails, which makes the elimination of the infection by the immune system more difficult.
Risk Factors: Onychomycosis is more common among the elderly for several reasons, like the reduced blood circulation and increased exposure to fungus in their lifetime. The nail fungal infection tends to affect more men than women, and especially those with a family history of this condition.
Other factors that increase the likelihood of suffering from onychomycosis include:
- Excessive sweating
- Working in a wet environment
- Suffering from psoriasis
- Wearing stockings and shoes that do not absorb sweat
- Walking barefoot in moist public places such as swimming pools, gyms and locker rooms
- Suffering from athlete's foot
- Having small lesions of the skin or the nails, or having a damaged nail
- Suffering from diabetes or from conditions that affect the immune system.
Symptoms: You are likely to suffer from nail fungal infection, if one or more of your nails:
- Are thicker than normal
- Are fragile, or brittle
- Are deformed
- Are dark in color
The condition can be very painful and may cause permanent damage to the nails. It can also cause other serious infections that can spread to other parts of the body, if your immune system is weakened because of drugs, diabetes or other diseases. The onychomycosis is particularly risky for patients with diabetes and those with weakened immune systems, for example due to leukemia or AIDS. In diabetics any injury however minor to the foot, including onychomycosis, may cause more serious complications. In these cases, you should go to the doctor immediately.
A natural remedy:
Garlic: garlic has a reliably powerful antifungal activity. If you combine it white vinegar, you'll have two powerful weapons against this type of infection. Simply peel and chop three cloves of garlic and place them into a bowl with half a cup of white vinegar. Leave it for at least an hour and then soak a cotton ball in the mixture and treat the infected areas.