It's been said that our nails say a lot about our personal hygiene as well as our attention to proper grooming. But aside from these, there's one more reason to keep our nails healthy and clean: to prevent them from falling out as a result of onchomycosis.
What is Onchomycosis?
Onchomycosis is any infection caused by fungus on the finger and toe nails. Not only does it have the tendency to recur, it is also the most difficult to prevent and treat among fungal infections occurring on the body surface. The condition starts with a yellow or white spot under the tip of your nail then it slowly spreads to cover the entire nail. The affected nail thickens and becomes brittle and cracked. Bacteria also invade the nail as the fungus grows turning it brown, black or green. The surrounding skin becomes itchy, red and swollen eventually causing the nail to loosen and fall out.
Who are at Risk to it?
Although it can happen to anyone, onchomycosis occurs more frequently after age 40 because at this time, nails thicken and grow more slowly and are thus more susceptible to infection. People whose jobs require them to immerse their hands in water all the time, such as dishwashers, bartenders and meatpackers, are also more prone to nail infections.
How is it Treated?
Nail infections rarely heal by themselves and as stated, they are very hard to cure. Oral antifungals are often prescribed to patients with onchomycosis but healing only takes place after many months and these drugs may even cause other skin problems as well as vomiting and diarrhea. More doctors these days prefer to remove the infected nail and apply antifungal cream on the affected toe or finger. This treatment has minimal or no side effects and is more likely to achieve a permanent cure. Although fingernail infections are usually cured, toenails have lower success rate. This is partly because the warm and moist environment provided by shoes and socks encourage fungal growth.
How can it be Prevented?
You'll significantly reduce the chances that you'll develop onchomycosis by:
- always keeping your hands and feet clean and dry
- wearing socks and shoes that allow your feet to breathe and enable perspiration to evaporate
- changing your socks at least once or twice daily and taking off your shoes occasionally during the day especially if you have sweaty feet
- opting to wear leather soles since rubber and crepe-soled shoes prevent ventilation
- sprinkling anti-fungal powder on your feet and in between your toes after bathing, as well as on your socks and shoes before putting them on
- wearing gloves to protect your hands from being overexposed to water as well as chemicals and microorganisms
- avoiding spread of infection through washing your hands after touching your feet
- limiting manicures to two or three times a year and not allowing your cuticles to be cut or removed
- making sure that your manicurist disinfects her tools before using them on you
- avoiding injuries on your nail beds as these will provide entry for fungi and bacteria