According to statistics, onychomycosis or commonly known as toenail fungus affects approximately half of Americans, 70 years of age and above. The condition is caused by dermatophytes which is a common label to a group of fungus that causes skin disease. These fungus grow and they feed on the keratin which makes up the surface of the toe nail. The condition is relatively rare in young people especially children. However, the occurrence of this type of condition increases with age. The fungal infection occurs when microscopic fungi begins to enter a small trauma in the nail, then grow and spread in the warm and moist areas inside the person's socks or shoes.

What causes toenail fungal infection?

People can pick up toenail fungus in moist areas such as shower stalls, public gyms or swimming pools. This can be passed among family members and acquentions via direct or indirect contact.

This type of condition can be passed from one toe to another, or to other areas of the body. People who are active in sports and wear tight-fitting shoes or keep their feet from drying out are at higher risk of having this condition.

What are the symptoms?

The most common symptoms of toenail fungal infection are odorous debris under the toenail, hardening of the infected toenail, discoloration of the toenail, falling off of the toenail, and distinct spots along the sides of the affected toenails.

There is a big difference between the infection in fingernails and toenails because it is more difficult to treat infected toenails. The big and little toenails are more prone to this fungal infection even though the other toenails can also be infected.

In addition, other risk factors evident with this condition are: not drying off the feet althoughly, abnormal PH level of the skin, and a low immune system of someone who has been exposed to a fungus. People suffering from diabetes have a high risk of having a toenail fungus since their immune system is weak. Therefore, most diabetics would have to take advantage of the services of a podiatrist because they have sensitive toenails.

How to Treat Toenail Fungus?

Once the fungal infection begins, it is important to have it assessed by a specialist. The disease is curable. However, the treatment process is slow. There are two main types of fungal infection treatment. The first one is the topical cure that is usually applied to the surface of the nail. The second are medications taken through the person's mouth.

Research studies proved that topical remedy for nail fungus works best in the early periods of a mild infection. Furthermore, a health care professional may prescribe ciclopirox which is an anti-fungal nail polish that is applied on the infected nails and surrounding skin. You can also find other over-the-counter fungus treatments, despite their effectiveness varies.

Some people with toenail fungal infection prefer oral medications because they find them more effective, especially those categorized as advanced medications. In addition, home or 'natural' remedies are still used by some. These remedies vary from apple cider vinegar and tea tree oil to ointment and mouthwash. However, none of them has been verified scientifically.

Is it possible to prevent toenail fungus? Since treating a toenail infection can be very difficult, it is best to try to prevent the occurrence of the condition. Remember the importance of wearing protective shoes or sandals when using public showers, pool and gyms. By doing so, you are protecting your feet from contracting unseen microorganisms and fungi. Also, as much as possible do not borrow other people's socks or shoes especially if he has observable toenail fungus symptoms. Trim your toenails and wash your feet regularly. You should dry them thoroughly especially after taking a shower. If you suspect that you are already developing toenail fungus, you should see your foot doctor right away, so he can give you an appropriate treatment plan.