Men’s health / 23 Dec, 2019

Fixing a fungal nail infection

Dr Goh Lit Ching

What is fungal nail infection?

Fungal infection of nails is common, particularly in toenails. The infection causes thickened, discoloured and unsightly nails, and is more common in people aged over 60 and in younger people who share communal showers, such as swimmers or athletes.

Symptoms of fungal nail infection

Fungal nail infection is typically painless, with symptoms commonly including:

  • Thickening or discolouration of nail (often a green-yellow/whitish colour)
  • Nail detaching from the skin under the nail or falling off completely
  • Skin next to the nail becoming inflamed or scaly

Causes of fungal nail infection

There are many different causes of fungal nail infections, such as:

  • Spreading from a fungal skin infection
  • Repeated nail trauma – damaging the protective skin at the base of the nail and allowing fungi to enter
  • Various medical conditions (e.g. diabetes, psoriasis, low immune system or general poor state of health)

Diagnosis

Many other nail conditions have a similar appearance and symptoms, which is why it’s important to consult your GP for clinical examination. For definitive diagnosis of fungal nail infection, a nail clipping sample may be sent for testing at a laboratory.

Treatment

Treatment for fungal nail infection includes:

  • Antifungal nail lacquer – prescribed by your doctor. Fungal nail infection may require six months of nail lacquer treatment for fingernails and up to a year for toenails
  • Oral antifungal tablets
  • Nail removal procedure – If all other methods fail

Preventing fungal nail infection

Fungal nail infection can be prevented by keeping your nails clean and dry. You may like to consider:

  • Wearing sweat-absorbing socks or changing your socks frequently
  • Avoiding tight-fitting footwear. Choose shoes with the breathable materials
  • Discarding old shoes. You may also consider treating them with disinfectants and antifungal powders
  • Wearing footwear/slippers in pool areas
  • Giving up on nail polish and artificial nails. If you can’t, only go to nail salons that use sterilised manicure tools for each customer
  • Wash your hands after touching an infected nail to prevent the infection spreading to other nails
  • Disinfect your nail clippers after each use
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