Singapore’s humid and moist climate provides the perfect environment for fungal nail infections to thrive in and spread. Since the toes are usually confined to warm and moist shoes, fungal infections are more common in the toenails than the fingernails.
Other contributing factors that can greatly affect our skins’ environment and make it more desirable to the growth of fungi include:
- Barefoot walking
- Excessive perspiration
- Repetitive trauma to a specific area
- Dry cracked skin
What are the risk factors for fungal nail infections?
There are many causes of fungal nail infections but certain risk factors can increase the chances of certain individuals developing this condition, such as:
- Being over 65 years old
- Wearing artificial nails
- An injury on the nail or skin around the nail
- A weakened immune or circulatory system
- Going barefoot at public pools or the beach
- Wearing the same shoes daily, without allowing enough time to air out
Patients with chronic diseases, circulatory problems, or immune-deficiency conditions are also more prone to developing fungal nails and recurrent infections.
How can I identify fungal nail infections?
Symptoms of nail fungus include:
- Nail discolouration
- Foul odour
- Thickened nail
- Crumbly nail
- Onset of infection
- White markings on nail
- Nail deformity
If the infection is left ignored, the toenails can become thickened and difficult to trim, making walking painful. Patients may need to avoid footwear that feels tight around the toes and could experience discomfort or embarrassment when their feet are uncovered due to an ugly appearance. Fungal infections can also spread easily to other toenails, fingernails, and even the skin around the nails.
Any delay in treatment can cause significant or even permanent damage especially to individuals that have weakened immune systems from cancer treatments, rheumatological conditions, neurological conditions, or diabetes. Underlying biomechanical conditions such as hallux limitus could also impact your healing rate or worsen the fungal infection.
In some cases, nail infections can be missed or ignored due to the absence of symptoms or pain. At-risk individuals should undergo routine nail and skin care from their podiatrist. This is so any changes to the nails will not be missed, and prompt treatment can be applied upon the discovery of nail conditions.
What can podiatrists do for fungal nail infections?
A professional and accurate diagnosis is key to an effective and accurate treatment.
Podiatrists are trained to diagnose and treat lower limb conditions like fungal nail infections. They will assess your toenails and surrounding skin before advising you on the best course of action. Treatments for fungal nails can include over-the-counter medication, topical creams, minor surgical procedures, or conservative treatments like low dose laser therapy.
The use of multiple anti-fungal products or incorrect methods of treatment can cause an infection to spread or become more resistant to medication. This would subsequently make similar infections much harder to treat.
Why do podiatrists prefer laser therapy?
Low dose laser treatment is both painless and effective. A special gel is applied to the nail, which binds to the fungi cell wall, making them sensitive to specific wavelengths of light. This allows focused light to destroy nail fungus spores without harming healthy cells in the toes and surrounding skin.
Our podiatrists debride and file the nail thoroughly before treatment to allow the light to achieve better penetration. With this, we can achieve a high success rate when eradicating fungal nail infections without the risk of complications or invasive surgery.
Frequently Asked Questions
Most cases of nail fungus are caused by a type of fungi called dermatophyte. Yeast and mould can be a cause of nail fungi too.
The type of nail fungal treatment used is dependent on each individual, and there is no single best form of treatment. However, a podiatrist would be able to offer the appropriate treatment options after an initial assessment of your condition.
Effective treatment for nail fungus usually incorporates a multi-faceted approach involving:
- Trimming of the affected regions of the nail
- Applying topical antifungal medication
- Undergoing treatment such as low dose laser therapy
- Consuming oral antifungal medication
Treatment aims at removing nail-penetrating fungal spores in a quick and effective manner.
Nail fungus treatment can cost anywhere from $15 for an over-the-counter tube of cream that you apply at home, to hundreds of dollars for a multi-faceted medical approach.
The cost of treatment varies widely depending on the types of procedures used by different professionals.
Examples of common nail fungus home remedies include tea tree oil and vinegar. However, home remedies often have a limited effectiveness rate as they are unable to penetrate into and eliminate fungi that reside deep inside the nail.
Furthermore, many home remedies are fungistatic, which simply keeps the fungi from growing. This is much unlike fungicidal treatments, which kills the fungi and eradicates the problem at its root for a successful recovery.
Although home remedies can be useful for most minor cases of nail fungal infections, severe or cases of fungal nails that see no improvement should be checked out by a podiatrist.
It is very rare for nail fungus that has invaded a nail plate to grow out on its own without receiving treatment. If you plan on using topical ointments and home remedies while the nail grows out, be aware that it can take as long as 18 months for your nail fungus to resolve.