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Fungal nail infection

What causes a fungal nail infection?
They can be caused by similar organisms that cause athlete’s foot. They live off the keratin in your nails and cause discolouration and thickening. Often the discolouration is white, yellow or brown. Black nails are usually caused by trauma (stubbing or dropping something on your toe) but if you haven’t damaged your toe and your nail becomes black or green, seek medical advice from your doctor or see your podiatrist for advice.

Who gets fungal nail infections?
Anyone could get a fungal nail infection. They are often a result of trauma or poor foot hygiene.

Treatment options
There are many schools of thought surrounding nail infections. This is because nail fungus is particularly difficult to get rid of.

You can file the nail surface with a file and apply medicated nail varnish or cream weekly. This treatment requires dedication for a minimum of 9 months. If the nails are very thickened, you may require your podiatrist to thin the nails for you using a gentle drill.

You may also be prescribed systemic anti-fungal tablets from your GP but these do have severe side effects and your GP may not be keen to prescribe.

If the nail is very thickened and painful, then you may wish to consider a surgical nail removal. Your registered podiatrist will be able to carry out this procedure for you under local anaesthetic.

If the nail does not bother you, some practitioners suggest trying natural remedies such as tea tree oil or just simply leaving the nail alone and using conservative treatment such as regular filing.

This depends on how you feel about it. You can buy some of these treatments over the counter at a pharmacist but you must seek advice before progressing with treatment.

Outcomes
Often, fungal nail infections are symptom free. They will only leave the nail slightly discoloured, thickened or brittle. Nail fungus is extremely difficult to totally resolve. The treatments available may not cure the fungus but will prevent the infection from becoming a significant problem later on.