Self-Care for Fungal Nail Infection

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Introduction     |    Causes and Risk Factors     |    Treatment     |    Foot Hygiene      |    Home Remedies

Fungal infection of the fingernails or toenails refers to the growth of fungi under, in or on the nails. Toenail infections are more common than those of the fingernails. Such infections develop over a period of time. Hence, any immediate change in the appearance or feel of nails may be too subtle to notice.

It usually begins as a white or yellow spot under the tip of the nail. As it aggravates, it may cause discoloration, thickening and crumbling at the edge of the nail. If one is experiencing any or a few of the following symptoms, it is a clear indication of a fungal nail infection:

  • Scaling under the nail
  • White or yellow streaks on the nail
  • Crumbling corner or tip of the nail
  • Flaking white areas on the nail’s surface
  • Yellow spots at the bottom of the nail
  • Distorted nail that lifts from the nail bed
  • Discolored nail (it may turn white, yellow or brown)
  • Brittle or thickened nail
  • Foul odor emitting from the infection site

Having looked at the common symptoms of a fungal nail infection, it is important to understand the causes behind it or who is at a high risk of contracting it.

Causes and Risk Factors for Developing a Fungal Nail Infection

Fungi already present in the body can cause nail infections. It is contagious and can be easily contracted from someone already affected by it. It also spreads from one nail to the others. Social commune areas such as changing rooms, pools, showers, salons, are common places for infection. Old age is another risk factor. As the nail ages, it gets brittle and dry. The resultant cracks, expose the nail to infection. Reduced blood circulation to the feet and a weakened immune system are some of the other risk factors. A prior history of athlete’s foot makes one all the more vulnerable to nail infections. People with diabetes and a minor nail or skin injury or psoriasis (a skin condition) are another high-risk groups.

Using stockings or footwear that do not absorb sweat or do not allow a good ventilation, create a warm and humid foot environment, an ideal breeding ground for the fungi.

Stockings and Footwear


Treating a Fungal Nail Infection

An infected nail calls for an early treatment so as to prevent any permanent damage or loss of the nail.

Topical antifungal treatment or oral antifungal medicines may be prescribed by the health practitioner. A relatively new treatment is the laser therapy. It requires treatment once every three months for a period of 12 months until the infection completely disappears. Surgically removing the nail is the last resort when the medical treatments fail to show desired results.

Apart from the abovementioned antifungal treatments, by adopting certain basic self-care measures, such infections can be easily managed as well as prevented. These measures are primarily related to foot hygiene and nail care.

Foot Hygiene

As discussed earlier a warm and humid environment is the ideal breeding ground for fungi. Hence, the feet should be washed clean and kept dry. The stockings used should be clean and of a breathable fabric. For Eg- Covidien Kendall Closed Toe Thigh Length TED Anti-Embolism Stockings. They should be changed whenever found damp. Likewise, the footwear worn should also be well-ventilated so as to reduce perspiration, thereby keeping the feet cool. For Eg- SOLE Softec Ultra Footbeds. Avoid being barefoot in public changing rooms, pools, showers and salons. Try using your own products for pedicure or manicure or make sure to visit a trustworthy salon.

Nail Care

The nails should be trimmed short and filed often. A separate pair of nail scissors should be used for infected nails. Use of waterproof gloves is recommended, before indulging in any work that exposes the hands to water.

Home Remedies for Nail Infection

Certain functional home remedies can also be put to use for treating fungal nail infections. Tee tree oil is antiseptic in nature. Its topical application has a healing effect towards nail infections. Vicks VapoRub, which is commonly used for cold is effective in treating fungal nail infections. Rubbing it on the affected nail improves blood circulation to the nail, thereby aiding the healing process. Vinegar which is an acidic liquid is also used for combating fungal nail infections. It changes the pH value of the infected area, thereby curbing the growth of fungus. Use of olive and coconut oil also produces a similar effect as that of vinegar.

Even after a successful treatment, since nails grow slowly, it may take up to a year for their appearance to return to normal.

Thus, adopting certain preventive measures and utilizing self-care treatment options and home remedies can go a long way in treating fungal nail infections.



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