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 podiatric care can cause significant or even permanent damage, especially in patients with weakened immune systems. This includes patients who are undergoing cancer therapy, have rheumatological conditions, neurological conditions, or diabetes. Underlying biomechanical conditions such as hallux limitus can also impact the recovery rates or cause fungal infection to deteriorate.
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 will help to ensure that any changes to the nails are not missed and prompt interventions can be taken upon the discovery of nail conditions.
What can podiatrists do for fungal nail infections?
An accurate diagnosis is key to effective intervention.
Podiatrists are specialised in diagnosing and managing lower limb conditions like fungal nail infections. They will examine your toenails and the surrounding skin to determine the best course of action. Remedies for fungal nails can include over-the-counter medication, topical creams, minor surgical procedures, or conservative interventions, such as low dose laser therapy.
Using multiple anti-fungal products or incorrect methods to manage a fungal toenail infection can cause the infection to spread or become more resistant to medication. This would subsequently make it harder to resolve.
Why do podiatrists prefer laser therapy?
Low dose laser therapy is a painless and effective way to manage fungal nail infections. During the procedure, a special gel is applied to the nail. The gel binds to the fungi cell wall, making them sensitive to specific wavelengths of light. This allows focused light to destroy the nail fungus spores without harming healthy cells in the toes and surrounding skin.
Our podiatrists will debride and file the nail thoroughly before this procedure, allowing the light to achieve better penetration. This ensures 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 fungal nail therapy that is used depends on the individual and their specific condition. Every fungal nail condition is different from patient to patient. What works for one person may not work for another. However, a podiatrist can determine the best options after an initial assessment.
Effective fungal nail therapy usually incorporates a multi-faceted approach involving:
- Trimming of the affected regions of the nail
- Applying topical antifungal medication
- Undergoing low dose laser therapy
- Consuming oral antifungal medication
Podiatric intervention aims to quickly and effectively remove nail-penetrating fungal spores.
Fungal nail therapy can cost from as little as $15 for an over-the-counter tube of cream to hundreds of dollars for a multi-faceted medical approach that includes multiple sessions.
The cost varies widely depending on the types of procedures used by different professionals.
Examples of common fungal nail home remedies include tea tree oil and vinegar. However, these remedies are often not as effective as they are unable to penetrate, and eliminate fungus that reside deep inside the nail.
Furthermore, many home remedies are fungistatic, which simply keeps the fungus from growing but do not kill it. This is different from fungicidal therapy, which kills the fungus and eradicates the problem at its root for a successful recovery.
Although home remedies can be helpful for mild cases of fungal nail infections, severe cases or cases that do not improve with home remedies should be seen by a podiatrist.
Fungal nail that has invaded the nail plate is unlikely to go away on its own without any podiatric intervention. If you plan on using topical ointments and home remedies while the nail grows out, be aware that it can take up to 18 months for the nail fungus to clear up.