A Few Things Older Adults Should Know About Toenail Infection

A fungal nail treatment (onychomycosis) is an extremely common ailment which can leave you with discolored, fragile, brittle nails, most often on either your fingers or your toe’s tips. Its official name is onychomycoticoniasis, and like athlete’s foot it is generally caused by a fungus. However, instead of affecting only the soft skin between your toes or on the underside of your feet, it invades not just your nails but also your whole nail. The fungus causes the “white spot” or “black spot” that appears on your nail as a result of infection. Although the cause of onychomycosis is not yet known, certain conditions and medications have been shown to be triggers.

Onychomycotics can be difficult to treat once they have formed, mostly because they’re quite resistant to standard antifungal medications. Most conventional approaches to treating fungal nail infections involve using topical prescription products that are applied directly to the infection. These topical solutions, such as nail polish, lacquer or oil-based hand lotion, are effective for many people. However, there are some people who have become so addicted to these topical solutions that they find it almost impossible to prevent getting infected by them. Others try to scrape away the white spots, but this only increases their resistance to treatment.
In more advanced stages of infection, patients may experience thickened or discolored nails as a result of severe fungal nail infection. Untreated thickening or discoloration can result in permanent damage to the nail, or even the complete removal of the nail. Treatment for this particular type of infection involves very potent topical applications and strong oral antifungal medications. Although it’s not unusual for patients to experience extreme discomfort during these treatments, in many cases patients actually improve in both their physical condition and disposition after treatment is administered. This is because the treatment often helps to reduce the pain, swelling and discoloration caused by the infection. Once you’ve had your fungal nail infection treated, your symptoms should resolve as quickly as possible.
Another cause of thickened, discolored or brittle nails is frequent exposure to ultraviolet (UV) radiation from tanning beds, swimming pools and tanning beds. Many people are unaware that even though a tanning bed has been approved by the Food and Drug Administration, it’s still possible for you to get fungal nail infections from swimming pools and tanning beds. In fact, studies have shown that patients who frequently swim in chlorinated swimming pools and who are prone to developing nail infections are at an increased risk for contracting fungal nail infections. It’s extremely important that you make sure that your pool is properly cleaned on a regular basis and that you avoid being near it when it’s not being used.
In rare instances, older adults may also develop a fungal nail infection as a result of reduced blood flow to the extremities. Typically, this decreased blood supply can be the result of decreased joint mobility or a condition known as osteoarthritis. Osteoarthritis often causes cartilage to wear down, making it much easier for joints to become inflamed and thickened. If osteoarthritis is present, it’s advised that you visit your physician right away to discuss treatment options.
In rare instances, fungal toenail infections are caused by dermatophyte fungi. Dermatophytes are very small organisms that are capable of reproducing extremely quickly. Common types of dermatophytes that are believed to cause toenail fungal infections include Trichophyton rubrum and Erythromyces dermatitis. These two species of dermatophyte fungi are the most common reasons for toenail fungal infections in younger adults and young children.

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