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Anyone can get infected with nail fungus. It is less common in children, and becomes more common as we age due to weakening immune systems and diminished blood circulation, which make the body more susceptible to fungal infections. In particular, patients with diabetes or psoriasis are at greater risk*.
Fungi are everywhere, so it isn’t possible to completely eliminate the possibility of infection, but there are steps that can be taken to reduce your chances of infection.
Yes, you can catch the infection from others. Sharing nail clippers or nail cosmetics can pass the fungal infection to others. Similarly, public swimming pools are a common place to catch a fungal infection.
There could be a number of reasons, but it is likely that you are naturally more susceptible to fungal infections. In addition to genetic susceptibility or a generally weaker immune system, you may be exposing yourself to environments where fungi thrive, like swimming pools or public gyms. Athletes are often exposed to conditions where fungal infection is more likely. Some patients with other medical conditions, such as diabetes, psoriasis, or a weakened immune system, are more likely to be vulnerable to nail infections.
We don’t recommend it. If you suspect that you have a nail infection, visit a doctor and have it properly diagnosed. Although serious complications arising from nail fungus infections are rare, it should be treated quickly to avoid permanent damage to the nail. Also, it is better to treat an infection early before it becomes severe and harder to treat.
Your immune system often will kill the fungus, but it is not perfect. The toenails, in particular, are a common site of infection as blood circulation is very limited there. Thus, it is more difficult for the immune system to detect the infection.
Nail infections progress slowly, so the condition will become increasingly difficult to treat. Serious complications are rare except in patients who have weakened immune systems due to HIV infection/AIDS or the use of immunosuppressing medication. However, if the infection progresses and the nail gets thicker, it could become painful to walk and wear shoes.
Most treatments are effective, but it takes time to cure nail infections. Nail fungus will not clear until a new healthy nail, which is fungus-free, replaces the damaged nail. As nails grow slowly, it can take 12-18 months for toenails to become clear, even when the medication is working*. The recurrence rate is unfortunately quite high with nail fungus infections. If you get recurring nail fungus infections, it could be a sign that you are susceptible to them.
Yes, it can help. Long fingernails can provide more opportunity for fungus to hide underneath. It is just as important, however, to keep nails dry. This is especially the case for toenails, which are more likely to be in a moist environment.
You should fully complete the treatment regimen that your doctor has prescribed, making sure that the infection is cured and your nail is clear before stopping treatment. Change your socks frequently to help keep your feet clean and dry. Shoes that were used when your nail was infected should be sterilized or thrown away. If you also suffer from athlete’s foot, it should be treated so it does not spread to your nails. Finally, wear sandals or flip flops at public gym showers and pools where fungi thrive, in order to minimize your chances of coming into contact with fungi.
Many home remedies are not evidence-based medicine, meaning that they have not been rigorously tested. This doesn’t mean that they have no chance of working, but we recommend that you visit your physician first. For starters, self-diagnosing can be risky. There are other skin conditions that appear similar to nail fungus, such as nail psoriasis, which will require a different treatment. Second, your physician will help you recommend a treatment that’s appropriate for the symptoms you are showing and accounts for the factors that are important for you.
The exact duration of treatment and the time it takes to see positive change will vary depending on the person, the treatment, and how advanced the fungal infection is. Generally, the earlier you start treatment, the less time it will take to clear the infection. It’s important to understand that it takes fingernails 3-6 months to grow out and toenails require 12-18 months. Even after successful treatment of the fungus, it can take this long until the damaged nail grows out and is clipped, and the appearance of the nail is fully restored.
There are several good reasons to see your physician if you are concerned about your nails. First, a proper diagnosis rules out other conditions that can appear similar to nail fungus, such as nail psoriasis, which will require a different treatment. Second, the earlier nail fungus is identified, the quicker and more successful the treatment. Lastly, your physician will be your best ally in finding the appropriate treatment and lifestyle recommendations to fix your nail concerns.