Onychomycosis (onycho-nails, mycosis-fungal infection), Tinea unguis or simply ringworm of the nail, is a fungal infection affecting fingernails or toenails; the actual seat of infection being the nail-bed or the plate under the nail surface. Classified as the most common disease of nails, it constitutes about half of all nail abnormalities. Onychomycosis is prevalent in about 6-8% of the adult population.
It is caused by three main classes of fungal organisms: dermatophytes, yeasts, and non-dermatophyte molds. Fungi are simple parasitic plant organisms that do not need sunlight to grow. Since the fungi prefer dark damp places swimming pools, locker rooms and showers typically harbor the fungi. Toenails are more susceptible to the fungus.
Chronic disease conditions such as diabetes, problems involving the heart and circulatory system, or immune-deficiency disorders put you at a greater risk of infection. A history of athlete’s foot and excessive perspiration can be contributory too.
Depending upon the type of fungus, the infection may begin as a white, yellow, grey, brown or black spot under a nail tip. As it spreads deeper into the nail, it may cause it to discolor, thicken, loosen or lift up. Eventually, the nail becomes brittle, cracked and may separate from its bed.
The surrounding skin may become red, itchy or swollen. Pain results from cellulitis consequent upon the spread of the fungal infection or due to a superimposed bacterial infection.
If untreated, it may lead to nail deformity and/or loss of the nail plate.
Fungal infections are difficult to treat as they take several weeks – months to get better and after you’ve grown back your nail, here comes another infection! The fact is, some people are just at risk for having to easily acquire this infection recurrently in their lifetime.
Though onychomycosis initially appears to be only a cosmetic concern, without treatment, however, the nails can become so thick that they press against the inside of the shoes, causing pressure, irritation, and pain.
Conventional therapy consists of topical treatments that are applied directly to the nails, as well as systemic drugs such as griseofulvin and ketoconazole. Oral drugs are not so effective due to the low serum concentration of the drug at the site of the infection.
People with onychomycosis experience immense psycho-social or employment-related issues due to the physically repulsive and abnormal appearance of the nails; particularly when fingers – which are always visible – rather than toenails, are affected.
Homoeopathic remedies do not kill the fungus. They enhance the immunity of the body to fight the fungus and resist recurrence. This way natural healing takes place. The nail, if mildly damaged, repairs itself. If grossly damaged, it falls off and is replaced by a new healthier nail which can withstand the fungal infection.
Here is a case of a gentleman who visited my clinic in December 2013 with the above-mentioned medical condition of the fingernails. It was taking his self-esteem for a downslide. Though there were no complaints of itching or pain or any discomfort, the appearance of the nails itself was revolting for him. He avoided meeting people and going out for dinners etc., even though his top-level executive profile required him to. Eating a morsel with his own hands was becoming an ordeal due to a peculiar odor emanating from them.
He was put on a course of regular homoeopathic treatment for less than a year and this is what we achieved!
Before During After
The man is living happy and content post a gentle cure with Homoeopathy. He still visits my clinic on ‘n off for other issues or accompanies his family, but never even once has he come back for the nails!
This and many more of the nail illnesses; even most of the surgical conditions, if treated with homoeopathic medicines in the initial stages, yield very good results. Homoeopathic medicines can very well control the pain, swelling or any other abnormal sensation in the nail and the surrounding tissue, take care of the dyscrasia and bring back health to the diseased nails.
- Medicines like Ruta, Silicea, Natrum Muriaticum and Hypericum are found to be useful in treating ingrown toenails, even the one’s leading to deformity.
- Thuja for diseased fingernails with an ugly–waxy look.
- Myristica sebifera for pain in fingernails with swelling of the phalanges.
- Calcarea Carb gives very good results in corrugated nails which are uneven, spotted and irregular, stimulating the growth of new ones.
- Fluoric Acid is excellent for crumpled ridges.
- Graphites is helpful when the nails are thickened, rough and deformed like a horn or are brittle and crumbling.
- Causticum for ingrowing nails when Silicea fails.
To maintain healthy finger/toenails and prevent fungal growth, try the following tips:
- Keep your nails clean and dry. It’s better to cut them short.
- Wear rubber gloves when using soap and water for prolonged periods.
- Wear shower slippers/shoes whenever walking or taking a shower in public places such as amusement parks/pools.
- Stop abusing your nails. Don’t use your fingernails as tools to pick, poke or pry things. Avoid nail-biting.
- Apply moisturizer to your nails and cuticles every day. Creams with urea, phospholipids, or lactic acid can help prevent cracking.
- File your nails in one direction and round the tips slightly, rather than filing to a point.
- Don’t remove the cuticles or clean too deep under your nails. It can lead to infection.
- Do not apply nail paint to infected nails. It can cause water/moisture to get trapped under the surface.
- Avoid nail polish removers that contain a higher percentage of acetone or formaldehyde.
- Make sure your manicure and pedicure tools are disinfected before use. Else carry your own instruments.
- If you have artificial nails, check regularly for green discoloration (a sign of bacterial infection).
- Tight hose or shoes trap moisture – a favorable environment for onychomycotic infections. Wearing socks made of synthetic fiber aid in absorbing moisture quickly than cotton or wool.
- Do change your socks daily. It is advisable to give a break to your shoes every second-third day too.
- Eat a balanced diet and take vitamins containing biotin. Taking 2.5 milligrams of biotin daily may increase the thickness of nails. Iron, zinc, and B12 are the best to strengthen your nails; iron improves the brittleness while zinc and B12 cause healthy nail growth.
- As we age, the nail bed’s natural flow of oils and moisture – the cement that holds the nail plate layers together and gives the plate its inherent flexibility – is greatly reduced. Re-hydrating the layers with a good quality cuticle and nail oil containing Jojoba and Vitamin E help dry brittle nails. Jojoba oil has a very tiny molecule that can penetrate the nail plate surface, open up the layers and draw the Vitamin E in after it. The molecular structure of Vitamin E is too large to penetrate the nail plate layers or the surface layer of the skin without the benefits of Jojoba oil. Oiling the nail plate and surrounding cuticle at least twice daily and wearing gloves whenever working with household cleaning solutions helps in preventing nail splits.
- Do attend to systemic illnesses if any.
Note:: For better results, do follow the above mentioned preventive measures along with homoeopathic treatment with fervority.