Nails are like a mirror of health and success. Beauty and health of nails depends on what and how we eat, on whether the body is able to fully absorb the useful substances that come into it, from the harmonious work of the endocrine system, from the proper selection of shoes, socks, stockings, etc. The purposeful care of the state (health) of the nails, which can be both independent and specialized (visiting cosmetology salons and clinics) is of great importance. In other words, if we take care of them, delicately clean the nails and the skin around them, do a gentle massage, apply therapeutic or preventive varnishes, and, what is the most important, do it regularly and constantly – the nails respond to us with well-being and beauty. However, sometimes, despite a healthy lifestyle and constant care of the nails, they lose their beauty, become thick, faded, brittle, layered.
In this case neither self-care, nor specialized care can return health to your health, since this is onychomycosis.
The term onychomycosis comes from the Latin words “onycho” – a nail, and “mycosis” – a mycotic lesion.
What contributes to the onychomycosis?
Onychomycoses belong to the group of human infectious diseases, caused by pathogenic fungi, and therefore, these are infectious diseases transmitted from a person to a person. However, not all the fungi can cause a disease. The fact that the susceptibility to fungal flora in humans is not the same and the development of the disease depends not only on the properties of the fungus, but also on the state of the organism of the infected person. Nail fungi affects mainly adults and is very rare in children, which is associated with age-related changes in skin pH, thickness and structure of the stratum corneum epidermis, weakening of immune defense and skin resistance against the background of age-related diseases. You can be infected with the fungus, which leads to damage to the nails of the feet, in public places: baths, saunas, swimming pools, especially if you do not wear personal flip flops. It is a common situation to get infected sharing shoes, towels, washcloths, insufficient treatment of the bath after washing, as well as rugs and grating in the bathroom. The defeat of fingernails usually occurs when scratching foci on the skin, while visiting cosmetology salons and massage rooms, in which the staff is often infected with fungi. In addition, false nails create conditions for the development of fungal infection, making a kind of greenhouse effect, which, if previously infected with fungi, provokes their active development. As a result, you can be unpleasantly surprised having removed artificial nails. Occurrence of onychomycosis is also facilitated by nails trauma, disturbance of blood supply to the limbs, severe concomitant diseases (diabetes mellitus, immunodeficiency states, blood diseases), prolonged antibacterial, corticosteroid and immunosuppressive therapy. The likelihood of developing fungal diseases during pregnancy and in the postpartum period increases. For the development and growth of fungi, a moist environment is needed, so increased sweating and wet shoes are also predisposing factors in the development of fungal diseases.
What fungi cause onychomycosis and is it possible to make a diagnosis on your own?
Onychomycosis can be caused by one of a number of fungal diseases, occurring both only with the nail damage, and with the damage to the skin and hair. At this, nails damage can be observed both on toes and fingers. The most commonly the damage of nails is observed at tinea pedis, rubromycosis, trichophytosis, favus, less often at microsporia.
For example, with trichophytosis, the process begins with the free edge of the nail, which loses its shine, changes the pinkish color to gray, begins to crumble and exfoliate. Over time, the damage extends to the main part of the nail, which, being destroyed, turns into a shapeless mass of yellow-dirty color.
Despite the fact that the changes in the nails are sufficiently obvious and specific, it is impossible to establish the diagnosis on your own! You can only suspect a fungal disease, but the diagnosis will be determined by the doctor, who will be guided not only by visible manifestations of the disease, but also by the results of the laboratory methods of the study. For the diagnosis, pieces of affected nails, which will be examined under a microscope (microscopic examination), are required, or the resulting material will be sown to special nutrient media. After these studies, the doctor will be able to accurately determine the type of fungus and prescribe more precise and effective therapy.
How to treat onychomycosis?
First, the main condition for the treatment of onychomycosis should be full recovery, that is, you need to get rid of it once and for all.
Second, avoid mistakes in treatment. That is, there is no use in treating the fungus with folk remedies, since none of the folk remedies is able to get rid the body of the pathogen – fungus. Do not treat yourself, because if you do not know the exact diagnosis, you cannot be cured – on the contrary, the disease can progress and even the right medications will not help after that. Treatment should be appointed only by a doctor-mycologist, after a comprehensive examination and detection of an accurate diagnosis! Do not also orient in the treatment to the fact that the treatment is promised to be carried out quickly and cheaply. No drug will provide healing in a couple of weeks, as nails grow for months, and you can talk about healing only if the entire nail plate is released from the fungus. As for the cost of antifungal drugs – they are not cheap.
Third, do not look for super-drugs that will treat you from everything, you just need to get rid of the fungus. Therefore, it is better to forget about immunomodulators, homeopathy, phytotherapy, dietary supplements, various methods of influence on the body with unproved and unexplored action (blood UV, ozone, laser irradiation), since none of these methods contribute to the healing of the fungal infection.
Fourth, do not hurry to agree to surgical or chemical (with the use of aggressive solvents) removal of the nail plate, since after removal, permanent deformation of the nails can develop, their growth can be disrupted. Strong indications (total damage to the nail plate and nail bed) are required to remove the nail, that is, it should be used only in the most extreme case. To date, there are more effective and safe measures.
You will say, maybe it is better not to treat it at all, if the treatment is long and expensive. In addition, it is not a fact that it will appear to be effective. And, the fungus of the nail plate will not lead to fatal diseases…
Partly you are right, onychomycosis does not cause fatal conditions, but, according to the data of multiple studies, the quality of life with fungal nail disease decreases on average to 50–55% of the productive life, characteristic for a healthy person. In this case, patients noted not only the physical nuisances associated with the thickening or destruction of nails, but also experienced emotional stress, fears, negative emotions. In addition, there will still be health problems. And this is not only the fungus itself, which will chronically interfere with your body and present a potential threat of infection to others. In addition, possible allergization of the body, the addition of other infectious diseases, worsening of the course of chronic diseases (asthma, diabetes, dermatitis), development against the background of immunodeficient conditions of generalization of infections (sepsis), etc. In any case, the fungus of the nails (onychomycosis) should be treated, and the earlier, the better (and more effectively). Moreover, a specialist mycologist should treat it. When selecting a method of treatment, the doctor will be guided by a specific type of pathogen of onychomycosis (after microscopy and sowing), the type and form of the lesion, the prevalence of the process, the speed of nail growth, the general condition of your health, the safety criteria, the method of administration of the drugs used, and the allowable material costs.
At the initial stages of the disease (only the upper layers of the nail plate are affected, the matrix is not involved and there is no subungual hyperkeratosis), local treatment can be performed: cut the damaged sections of the nail, cover the remaining nail with antifungal lacquer, and apply antifungal ointments.
If the disease has passed to another stage and the nails are affected more than half, only topical drugs can not solve the problem, it is necessary to add systemic antimycotics. In this case terbinafine will be helpful, but already in tablets. Only a specialist can appoint a drug and choose a correct dose!
If the nail is affected to the base and the matrix with the nail plate, you may have to remove the nail, and after the operation take antifungal medications in tablets and topically. This combination of different therapies will significantly reduce the time of treatment and recovery. The first follow-up check must be made 2 weeks after the end of treatment, then once per month. Control microscopy is indicated 6 months after the end of treatment. Detection of the mycelium of pathogenic fungi serves as an indication for a second course of treatment with preliminary surgical removal of the affected nails. The absence of a mycelium, respectively, will indicate a cure.
What is the prevention of onychomycosis?
There is primary (prevents primary infection) and secondary (prevents re-infection or activation of the infection) prevention of onychomycosis.
To avoid primary or secondary infection with the fungus and protect the nails from it, you should:
– avoid risk factors that raise the possibility of a fungal disease. Do not use someone else’s shoes and do not give your shoes to others, use only your toiletries and care products for nails and skin, do not walk barefoot indoors (at home and in public places), disinfect items, do not wear rubber or uncomfortable shoes for a long time and synthetic socks, tights;
– use antifungal agents for preventive purposes;
– begin treatment of onychomycosis in time, as soon as it is detected, in order to stop it and save the nails.