Closeup view of woman foot with beautiful and healthy nails after Canesten treatment

Understanding fungal nail infection

From this article you can find out what fungal nail infection is and what the causes of getting it are. You can also learn about the symptoms, treatment and prevention of fungal nail infections and how to avoid spreading them.

What is a fungal nail infection?

You don’t often notice your fungal nail infection straight away because it is not painful and because you don’t tend to inspect your feet regularly. However, it is important for you to treat it as soon as you spot the symptoms because it will not clear up on its own and may even spread.

Fungal nail infection, known as onychomycosis, is mainly caused by dermatophytes, the same fungi responsible for athlete’s foot. Toenail fungus is the most difficult to cure of all fungal infections. There are many different causes of fungal nail infections.

The most prevalent predisposing risk factor is advanced age. Patients over 60 years of age are nearly 20 times more at risk of developing fungal nail infection in comparison with patients younger than 19 (Fungal Nail Infections (Onychomycosis): A Never-Ending Story?). It has been also discovered that men are up to three times more likely to have fungal nail infection than women (Fungal Nail Infections (Onychomycosis): A Never-Ending Story?). Other risk factors include diabetes, diseases that cause poor blood circulation and a weakened immune system.

Since fungi thrive in warm and moist environments, you might think fungal nail infection would be prevalent in tropical climates. Not true! People living in tropics don’t wear occlusive footwear that creates ideal conditions for fungi to develop.

Fungal nail infections are very contagious. The spread of foot infections, including fungal nail infection, occurs in places like shower stalls, swimming pools and locker rooms where people are barefoot but also in nail salons where the same nail accessories are used for many customers. Further, nail trauma, where the nail-skin junction or natural barrier is disrupted, can also increase the chances of developing fungal nail infection.

Fungal nail infection symptoms

Fungal nail infection can affect part of your nail, the entire nail or several nails. Infection usually starts at the edge of the nail as a white or yellow streak under the tip of your finger or toenail. They often spread to the middle and the nail becomes discoloured and lifts off. As the infection spreads, your nail usually changes and becomes brittle. It is important to treat the infection as soon as you notice the symptoms because fungal nail infection won’t clear up on its own, and the longer you wait the more difficult it is to cure.

You might be suffering from fungal nail infection if you notice:

  • White or yellow streaks on your nail.

  • Thick, rough or brittle nails.
  • Loss of luster and shine.

  • Crumbling or jagged nail edges.

  • Loosening or lifting up of the nail.

  • Area under the nail thickening or hardens

  • Change in nail shape.

  • Debris trapped under the nail.

  • An odor coming from the infected nail.

Smiling young man standing confidently and wearing grey T-shirt, happy after Canesten nail fungus treatment

Nail fungus treatment

How a fungal nail infection is treated depends on its severity. Even if you feel embarrassed by your infection, it is always advisable to seek help of your pharmacist as soon as you notice the symptoms. If there are only white patches visible on the nail, or not more than 3 toenails are infected, you can use over-the-counter antifungal topical medications to kill the fungus.  

If the infection affects deeper layers of the nail, repeated applications of the medication or a prescription-strength drug may be necessary to treat your fungal nail infection. 

If your symptoms of nail fungus are severe, a podiatrist can devise a treatment plan that can include: debridement, topical medication or oral medication. In the most serious cases, the infected nail can be chemically or surgically removed. Laser therapy can also be recommended for nail fungus treatment. 

Canesten Fungal Nail Treatment Set is available in pharmacies and will get you back on track towards a healthier looking nail. With visible results in 4 weeks or less, it helps get to the source of the infection and does not affect the cuticle end of the nail.  

You should see a doctor if your fungal nail infection is severe, treatment has not worked or your infection has spread to other nails. You should also seek doctor’s advice before starting a treatment if you are pregnant or have diabetes.

Relieved young man wearing red tracksuit smiling cheerfully

Nail fungus prevention

Fungal nail infections can take long time to clear because your nail grows slowly and you will only notice improvement once a new nail has grown through. It is not uncommon for nail infections to return. However, you can take some measures to stop fungal nail infections from recurring. Some simple lifestyle changes can help prevent fungal nail infections. The most important thing is to take care of your nails by keeping them well trimmed and clean. You should also practice good hygiene by washing and drying your hands frequently, especially after touching an infected nail or after treatment.

Other ways of preventing fungal nail infections are:

  • If you are suffering from athlete's foot, make sure you treat it as soon as possible as fungus can spread and affect your toenails or other areas of the skin, causing fungal nail. 

  • Keep your toenails short and trim. The correct way to cut or file them is straight across, not in a rounded shape.

  • When visiting nail salons, bring your own set of accessories. Clippers, files and contribute to spreading fungal infections when not properly sterilized. 

  • Avoid wearing tight-fitting shoes. This can damage the skin barrier between your toenail and the toe and allow fungus to invade. 

Fungal nail infections are contagious, so it is important you take measures to prevent them from spreading. First of all, you shouldn’t share your clothes, shoes and bed linens with other people. Also, you should always wash your hands thoroughly after touching infected nails or applying the treatment. You should avoid having manicures and pedicures done in a salon because you can pass your infection further through salon tools. Use different towels for the infected area and the rest of your body to prevent the infection from spreading. It is advisable to mention your infection to your loved ones so they can be cautious and avoid catching it.