Nail Fungus – The Facts
Nail fungus infections are also called Onychomycosis, tinea unguium or ringworm of the nails. More than 2 million Canadians and 35 million Americans are estimated to have an infection. Infection rates in Europe are also high with studies reporting prevalence rates of 8-12%. Toenails are around 5 times more likely to become infected than fingernails, and it’s mainly the big toe that is affected. Incidence rates rise dramatically with age, with some studies suggesting that over half of all people above the age of 65 have nail fungus.
The fungus that causes the infection typically enters via the tiny gap that exists between the nail plate the skin at the tip of the nail. It is often a cross-infection from toe fungus or athletes foot. The nail “protects” the fungus and provides a conducive environment for fungal growth (dark, moist, airless). It’s this location of the fungus underneath the nail (in nail anatomy terms this is referred to as a ‘subungal’ position) that makes it difficult to treat.
If you notice your toenails turning yellow, it’s highly that you have a nail fungus infection. (The other main cause of yellow toenails results from wearing dark colored nail polish for long periods of time without a protected base-coat). As the fungus becomes more embedded within the nail you’ll also notice a loss of texture, crumbling edges and a build up of debris under the nail.
It’s a good idea to start treatment as early as possible – ideally before the lanula has been infected. (The lanula is the crescent shaped lighter part of the nail near the cuticle). Read a range of treatment reviews before you get started. Some topical treatments will require a daily application – see this Funginix review for an example – while others allow a weekly routine. Clean and dry your nails thoroughly before treatment and, if you can, scrape away any surface layers of thickened nail above the fungus.