This type of infection can affect the nail itself and / or the bed underneath the nail. The fungi get in via cracks in the skin or gaps between the nail and nail bed and can make your nail turn white, black, yellow or green. One of the most common causes of a nail infection is the fungus spreading from athlete’s foot.
If you have a weak immune system, diabetes or are elderly, keep an eye on your foot health because fungal nail infections can be more common. They can start slowly, so it’s sometimes difficult to spot them immediately – watch out for thickening of the nail and/or discolouration, which can be the first and early signs. The earlier you start treatment, the more quickly you can get rid of the problem.
How do I avoid getting it?
Practice good foot care. Treat any athlete's foot you may have (symptoms may include itching and burning sensation between the toes, blisters on your feet or cracked skin) and use shower shoes when using a communal shower. Also avoid:
• Exposure to warm, damp conditions
• Wearing tight, small, ill-fitting footwear
• Damaging your nails – keep them trimmed and file them regularly
• Sharing towels, socks or footwear with others
• Cutting the cuticle, which increases the likelihood of infection.
If your thickened toenails cause discomfort when you walk, see a podiatrist. Treatments vary from paint-on anti-fungal ‘polish’, with which it can take up to 12 months to get rid of every trace of the problem, through to antifungal tablets to surgical removal of the nail in rare and extreme cases. If you are using OTC products for treatment, make sure to read and follow all label instructions. You may need more serious treatment if:
• Walking is uncomfortable
• You have diabetes, vascular disease, or a connective tissue disorder
• You nail infection is the result of a fungal infection on the foot
How do I stop the infection from coming back?
To prevent repeat infection, treat other fungal infections, such as athlete's foot, thoroughly disinfect your shoes or buy new ones and throw away old, infected pairs and never walk barefoot in communal areas. Don't use the same nail scissors or clippers for infected nails and healthy ones. It is important to complete a treatment, even if you think the infection is gone. In some cases, the nail may always look damaged.
If you are worried your fungal nail infection doesn’t seem to be going away, you can always visit your GP or podiatrist.