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Nail Infections Afoot in Summer

Summer is here and suddenly we see bits of our bodies that have been covered up for months!

Feet definitely come into this category. As the weather warms and we turn to sandals and lightweight shoes, and perhaps even go barefoot on the lawn or the beach, any foot problem really shows.

Nail infections are unpleasant and a fungal toenail infection can look particularly nasty, even if it is not causing any pain or discomfort.

Over time though the infection can develop and cause real problems. The nail can become badly discoloured, thickened and distorted. It can also turn white, black, yellow or even green. Apart from pain and looking awful, it can also cause an odour and discharge. In serious cases, the nail can be so damaged it can actually drop off.

There is a medical name for this - onychomycosis - and it is usually caused by dermatophyte fungi, the same fungi that cause athlete’s foot.

Your foot may become more prone to an infection when your feet have been hot and sweaty, perhaps in socks or tight shoes; or if you have previously damaged the nail or skin around the nail.

Sometimes the nail will simply grow back healthily from the root and slowly push the infected section away without the need for any treatment. But there is also a variety of effective treatments that can work when help is needed to get rid of the condition.

Even though it can seem a minor problem, it is often best to visit your doctor who can send a nail clipping away to be tested so you know exactly the cause of the infection. Treating the nail properly will also stop it spreading to other nails.

There are a number of proven treatments for a fungal nail infection. There are topical medications such as creams and lotions available from chemists plus an antifungal nail paint which is available through your doctor. None of these offer a particularly quick solution to the problem though. There is also a chemical nail removal system which involves a high level of urea. This is painted on the nail regularly and eventually will remove the damaged nail plate and the fungus, allowing the healthy nail to grow up.

Antifungal tables are available which may have to be taken for several months to ensure the infection has totally gone; and of course with any medication, there may be side effects from this.

A final treatment is laser. Here the nail is treated with high doses of light which destroy the fungus over time. In really serious cases your doctor may recommend surgery to remove the infected nail, allowing a new healthy nail to grow back in its place. Again this is no quick cure.

Of course the best solution of all is to take steps to avoid fungal nail infections. By keeping your feet cool and dry; wearing cotton socks that allow your feet to breath and generally keeping an eye on your foot health, you should be able to avoid this condition from returning.

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