NAILS- Fungal infection of nails
Fungus is a collective term for mushrooms, yeast, molds, etc. The distinctive factor that differentiates it from plants is the absence of chlorophyll that helps synthesise oxygen (by photosynthesis). Like bacterial and other viral infection, fungal infection is also one of the common infections found nowadays. As in bacteria, in fungus also there are good ones and bad ones which help or damage our body. The good ones help us in providing nutrients, in the fermentation process and in digesting waste products. The bad ones usually destroy the parts involved. Fungus can live on living / dead tissues of our body including hair and nails.
Fungal infection of nail is medically termed as nychomycosis’. It is one of the commonest problems regarding nails. It damages the nail colour, shape, texture, etc. Fingers will lose their beauty and the defence mechanism against trivial injury. In addition, the infection can also spread and grow into the nail.
Fungal infection of nails is most commonly seen in aged persons with serious medical illnesses. The commonest sites are toes. Its incidences are higher in persons who work with water,
i.e., swimmers, people who wash dishes, sweepers, etc. Also, incidences are often noticed in patients suffering from diabetes, circulatory disorders, AIDS and cancer.
Causes – Nowadays, the risk of fungal infection has increased with the use of artificial synthetic material like gloves or footwear made of rubber, rexin, plastic, etc. These materials do not absorb sweat and the constant moisture or increased humidity increases the risk of fungal infection.
Commonly fungal infection occurs due to two reasons
1)Due to intensive fungal pollution
2)Due to weakened immune mechanism or resistance which may be due to diseases or immuno-suppression treatments
Other common risk factors for fungal nail infection are
- Working constantly with water or standing on wet fungus floors
- Repeated injury from in-growing nails, hanging nail, biting the nail, exposure to chemicals, etc
- Using tight fitting/synthetic shoes for a prolonged period
- Wearing nylon socks/gloves
- Sharing bath towels
- Skin diseases – psoriasis, eczema, herpes, etc.
- Diseases – diabetes, circulatory disorders, malignancy, etc.
Drugs and therapy (steroidal and chemotherapy)
- Yellowish/blackish discolouration of nails and adjacent skin areas
- Thickening of nails
- Brittleness and crumbling of nails
- In-growing nails due to disfigurement and loss of alignment
- Occasional pain in nail bed or tip of the fingers/toes
- Nail loss
Diagnosis – can be easily done with clinical presentation of the symptoms itself, but to confirm the type of infection, microscopic examination of the smear is to be done. Also culture can reveal the type of fungus and sensitivity of the fungus to the drugs. In Allopathy, anti-fungal treatments have alot of side-effects with prolonged use, so it is better to proceed to treatment only after confirming the type of infection.
Complications – Fungal infection of the nail should be treated in the initial period itself or, otherwise, it will spread to the adjacent and other toe, fingernails. Also, it may cause darkening of the skin and nail loss, in due course.
Prevention – Cleanliness and dryness are the two major shields to prevent fungal infection. Follow hygienic measures to keep good health. Always wear cotton gloves and cotton socks ONLY and avoid wearing tight fitting shoes/synthetic shoes. Wear gloves to reduce the risk of injury or chemical contact.
- Keep fingers/toes dry and clean
- Remove hanging nails or shape the in-growth, if any
- Control sugar levels in case of diabetes
- Avoid unnecessary medication
- Diagnose properly and proceed to treatment as early as possible
General treatment – Fungal infections of nail are really tough to manage/cure. It needs prolonged treatment. Even after prolonged treatment, its nature of recurrences will be quite annoying. In Allopathy, external applications are the common referral list from the doctor’s desk which works very temporarily i.e., only while in use. Internal medicines are not usually prescribed to avoid side-effects. Only in extreme/painful conditions, painkillers, antibiotics and fungicides are used simultaneously to control the infection.
Homeopathy usually doesn’t believe in topical applications for curing. It believes only in internal,
constitutional treatment which will always provide permanent cure without any recurrences and side-effects. Internal Homoeopathy medicine often roots out the cause and disease. The right drug selected constitutionally may take some time to act, but once it starts its action, it rides in smooth top gear in the right direction to cure the disease without any recurrence.
In Homeopathy, for fungal infection of nails, the treatment procedure will be a prolonged one, i.e., it needs at least 4-6 months or more than that. Also treatment should be continued till all nails attain healthy condition with normal growth. The main advantage of Homeopathic treatment is its ‘nil side-effects’, compared to anti-fungal treatment from other
schools of medicines. The second thing is its ability to arrest recurrence by raising the immune level.
Homeopathic medicines commonly used in case of fungal infection of nails are Acid chrysarobinum, Acid flour, Acid nit, Alumina, Causticum, Calc sulp, Graphites, Hepasulp, Mezereum, Myristica, Nat sulp, Silicea, Sulphur, etc. These Medicines should be taken under the advice and diagnosis of a qualified Homeopath.
Dr. S. Chidambaranathan, BHMS, MD (Homeo) 24 E. New Mahalipatti Road Tel: +91-452-233-8833 | +91-984-319-1011 (Mob) E-mail: email@example.com
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(Disclaimer: The contents of this column are for informational purpose only. The content is not intended to be a substitute for professional healthcare advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of healthcare professional for any health problem or medical condition.)