Fungal nail infections are unpleasant but usually painless and not serious. According to a survey published in the British Journal of Dermatology, the condition affects between 3 and 8 in every 100 people in the UK.
- Yellowy, crumbly toenails
- Pain if the nail becomes infected
- Inflamed skin around the nail if left untreated
- Pieces breaking away from the nail if left untreated
Causes of fungal nail infections:
A fungal nail infection is often caused by Athlete's foot - this is where fungi causes the skin between your toes to become flaky, red and itchy.
Fungal infections of the fingernails are usually caused by a type of yeast called candida. People who wash their hands frequently are at greater risk because the skin below the nail can become damage making it easier for an infection to take hold.
Fungal nail infections are also more common in people with some existing health conditions such as diabetes or psoriasis.
Nail biting, a warm climate, smoking and using artificial nails may also increase your risk.
Fungal nail infections become more common as you get older.
How can I treat it?
Antifungal creams can be used to treat fungus around your nails which may be sufficient in the early stages. There are also antifungal nail paints applied directly to the nail. A fingernail may need 6 months of treatment and a toenail a year.
The most effective treatment is antifungal tablets available with a private or NHS prescription. This will also clear up associated skin infections, such as Athlete's foot. Once the course has been completed, the toenail may take several months to improve in appearance. While the nail is re-growing you can use an antifungal cream to prevent further infection. Left untreated the infection can spread to your other nails.
Some essential oils such as oregano, tea tree and lavender oil are thought to act as a barrier against fungal infections.