While nail fungus is not uncommon, it can be a source of embarrassment for those that suffer with it. Nails on the fingers and toes can become thick, brittle, crumbly, distorted, dull and darkened. Unsightly toenails are easier to hide though they are just as problematic as fingernails with a fungal infection.
Onychomycosis, or a nail fungal infection, can be caused by fungi but also by yeast and mold. Infections are most predominant in people whose hands or feet are continuously exposed to warmth and moisture. The infections are also more common in those people with poor circulation as the body is less capable of fighting off the invading spores.
The first observable symptoms of a fungal infection of the finger or toenails are yellow or white spots under the nails. If you observe these spots, visit your physician for a proper diagnosis. The sooner treatment begins, the more successful it will be. There are also several steps you can take at home to prevent and treat fungal infections of the nails.
Because fungi thrives in moist environments, keeping your fingers and toes dry is the first step in preventing infection. Be sure to dry your hands and feet thoroughly after you shower, paying particular attention to the spaces between your toes. If you expose your hands to water frequently, wear protective rubber gloves and turn those gloves inside out to allow them to dry before you put them on again.
While we all want to look our best, women tend to pay particular attention to their looks, right down to their fingernails. Women should avoid artificial nails which can trap moisture against the nail bed. If you wear nail polish, be sure to apply it to fingernails that are thoroughly dry and for no longer than a few days at a time.
Should you experience a nail fungus infection, vinegar and Vicks VapoRub are the home remedies of choice. While there is no scientific proof, many sufferers report that both of these remedies work equally well. To use vinegar mix one part vinegar to two parts water and soak your hands and/or feet for 15 minutes a day. Rinse them well and dry them thoroughly.
Vicks VapoRub can be applied directly to the nails and cuticles of your fingers and toes. There is no recommendation on how frequently to apply Vicks; once or twice daily should be sufficient. Be careful when applying Vicks to your fingers; if you frequently touch your face you run the risk of getting it in your eyes.
If you would prefer traditional medications, your physician can offer several options. Oral medications can be prescribed as well as an antifungal lacquer or other topical medication. In very severe cases, the removal of your nail may be necessary though this is often a last resort as it can take up to a year for a new nail to grow in its place.
If you think that you have a fungal infection in one or more of your nails, it is always best to consult your physician for a proper diagnosis. Early diagnosis promises the best chance of success when undergoing any type of treatment.