Nail fungus is one of the most common dermatological diseases. A fungal infection affects the nail plate, nail bed, and surrounding skin. Although the hands can also be affected by the infection, the fungal infection is most often found on the toes. An invisible pathogen is transmitted to the feet through wet surfaces or through the air in bathrooms, saunas, swimming pools, gyms and other places with high humidity.
Although nail fungus is statistically more common in older men with poor health, anyone can get it. Children often bring the disease from sports fields or clubs. Sometimes you can get infected at home from relatives. To prevent serious complications, it is important to recognize the infection early and start treatment.
Types of toenail fungus
There are thousands of mushrooms that can either parasitize a person or exist peacefully with him. Only a few of them cause onychomycosis or otherwise damage the nail plate.
If you're not sure what the change in nail texture is causing, make an appointment with a doctor. Based on external signs, skin condition and laboratory test results, a specialist will be able to determine the pathogen.
The destruction of the plate begins when it becomes infected with one of the following fungi:
- Dermatophytes. Common parasites associated with chronic diseases of the skin, hair and nails. The pathological process develops against the background of weak immunity. If your immunity is in order, the infection will be limited to a short-term, almost imperceptible peeling. You can collect the spores in a humid environment which contributes to the rapid reproduction of the Trichophyton menagrophytes fungus. This dermatophyte mostly appears on the thumbs. Already in the early stages, the skin around the fingers suffers. In a wet sauna or bathroom in your home, you can also become infected with other dermatophytes. Trichophyton rubrum is initially visible only at the tip of the plate, but gradually captures the entire surface up to the root. The infection is accompanied by stratification.
- leavened mushrooms. Infects the skin of the hands or feet, quickly develops protection against drug treatment. Fungi such as Candida can remain on the skin or mucous membranes for years after infection. Signs of the disease only appear when your immune system weakens, such as in the fall or early spring. The focus of the infection develops at the root. The nail quickly changes color, becomes dull. Without systemic treatment, the disease does not go away, but rarely becomes acute. With the strengthening of immunity, the lesion may temporarily disappear.
- Mold. For severe systemic lesions, moldy mushrooms are often responsible, of which scientists count more than 40 species. Mold organisms are so actively distributed that laboratory research does not always give unequivocal results about the nature of the disease. As a result, the fungus is not diagnosed in time or is treated for a long time with various drugs according to the brute force method. If you can't find medicine for six months, there is a risk of developing serious complications.
In the early stages of infection, it is impossible to recognize the fungus by itself. The state of the nail plate will change only when the living cells of the fungus acquire a critical mass. Colonization of nails and skin is faster if you have weakened natural defenses:
- deteriorated health - weakened immunity due to insufficient or unbalanced nutrition, viral attacks or cold;
- the body does not have the resources to resist the disease;
- nutrition in the nail bed is disturbed.
In the absence of all these factors, the disease will still start, but will proceed unnoticed by you and others.
If the fungus managed to break through the body's defense systems and gain a foothold on the skin or nail plate, onychomycosis will gradually begin to develop. The affected areas will darken, air cavities will appear between the layers. Left untreated, the plate will begin to delaminate.
Gradually, the entire surface of the nail can crack, become cloudy and turn black. You can remove a black nail with a special plaster or other means, but this will not protect you from relapses of the fungus. While there was a slow darkening of the nail plate, the spores penetrated deeper layers of the skin. Without medical treatment, new nails will already grow diseased, deformed, or discolored.
There are different types of infections. They can be recognized by the main characteristics indicated in the table.
In the distal-lateral phase skin irritation almost never occurs. Changes can only be determined by the appearance of the nail plate. An early symptom of onychomycosis is gray or yellow streaks at the end of the nail plate. If this part of the nail becomes brittle or flakes and the darkening returns even after trimming the infected part, you should see a doctor. A non-obvious sign is slow nail growth with good nutrition.
white surface mould
A small white spot appears on the nail, which does not cause discomfort. The skin usually isn't scaly, red, or itchy. Cosmetic defects on the nails appear and disappear without treatment. Other small defects form at the site of the lesion: small depressions on the plaque, tuberosity. Symptoms of the disease often appear after a long stay in a humid environment.
Proximal subungual form
The first symptom is a thickening of the base of the nail fold. Because the affected areas are small, the first stage of the disease often goes unnoticed. The color of the hole changes: from transparent white to cloudy yellow, then white. Affected nails grow very slowly, but do not break or fall off. A few months after the well changes color, the plate begins to peel off rapidly.
Total destruction (an advanced form of a fungal disease of any kind).
The color of the plate changes significantly, the nails turn yellow. The nail looks unsightly, collapses along its entire length. Behind the exfoliated tissue, skin is visible where it is usually closed. The skin around infected fingers becomes inflamed and red. Possible scabies and itching.
How to treat toenail fungus
The sooner the disease can be recognized, the easier it will be to cure onychomycosis. This disease does not appear in one day. You will be able to notice unpleasant marks on the skin and nail plate long before the nail is destroyed if you inspect your toes every time after a shower. Are there any signs of infection? So you need to see a doctor as soon as possible.
- The dermatologist will conduct a laboratory examination of the material from the nail plate, assess the stage of the lesion and select medications. Depending on the type of infection, the doctor may prescribe a single or systemic treatment. In the latter case, you will have to continue taking courses of pills or smear the skin with creams for another six months after recovery. This will ensure that there is no relapse.
- The beautician can cover the affected plaques with medical varnish, pick up a cream for inflamed skin or do a nail removal. Cosmetic treatment does not eliminate the cause of the infection, but makes conservative treatment more effective. Biomaterial damaged by a fungus is contagious. By removing exfoliated tissue, the beautician removes the biggest focus of infection.
Many types of onychomycosis appear mild - such as a white coating, brittle or slow growth of the nails. For these types of injuries, local treatment is suitable. Your doctor will prescribe topical preparations -- ointments, creams, gels -- that won't transfer the components into your bloodstream. Such treatment does not have any unpleasant consequences in the form of an allergic reaction on the skin or a weakening of the body. The medicine acts in the center of the infection, so recovery occurs faster.
Systemic treatment of mycosis is required in the following cases:
- large deformations appear along the entire length;
- cracks or creases appear;
- the process has spread to several nails, the skin on the fingers is contagious;
- damaged and infectious nail root;
- large black or yellow areas appear;
- the slab is stratified at the base;
- a fungus is found on the skin;
- quick fixes don't help.
Systemic therapy begins with diagnosis. It is important to quickly recognize the reasons for starting targeted treatment. Along with taking your medications, you will need to take steps to improve your health. Your doctor may recommend staying home for the first week to prevent an acute infection.
For complex therapy, two types of drugs are selected:
- To relieve symptoms. Onychomycosis and other forms of athlete's foot often cause skin irritation and itching. This deprives the already weakened body of strength.
- Drugs with cumulative effect. Funds of this type do not start acting immediately. The drug must enter the bloodstream through the skin or stomach and accumulate in the nail plate in sufficient quantities. After a few weeks, the fungus will die on its own.
You can cure nail and skin fungus without leaving your home. But if you choose the wrong remedy, under the right conditions, the infection will again capture your fingers. You should be treated only if you are sitting at home due to illness or are temporarily unable to visit a dermatologist for other reasons. In this case, it is worth trying drugs that are suitable for home use:
- Cream for external use from the group of imidazoles. Treats onychomycosis, early forms of mycosis and most fungal infections known to science. Suitable for the treatment of nail plate and skin. One of the most popular first means - quickly kills fungal colonies, prevents relapses. It can be used at home without medical supervision - the drug has almost no contraindications.
- Antifungal agent for external use, belonging to the allylamine group. Treats the consequences of onychomycosis and other forms of mycosis, is safe for the skin, suitable for the treatment of children and pregnant women. This is a fast-acting cream: complex forms of the disease are treated in a couple of weeks. If after a couple of months deformations or white plaques appear again, the course should be repeated.