Risk factors for fungal nail infection

By Angela Davis

Sunday, August 26, 2018

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FUNGAL nails or onychomycosis can be a real torment.

Smelly, unsightly and stubborn are all words that come to mind when considering fungal nails. While anyone can get onychomycosis, some people are at greater risk. Age, gender, genetics, overall health and simple everyday habits can play a role in the development of onychomycosis.

In this article we will look at the most common predisposing factors and hopefully you can avoid them.

• One that you can't avoid are the hereditary cases. This is rare, but some families have a genetic disposition to developing the condition. It can be seen in very young members of the family right through to the elderly.

• Chronic medical conditions will increase your risk. HIV, diabetes, poor circulation, and immuno-suppressing illnesses are examples of such conditions.

• Occupational footwear may also be a cause. I often see patients who wear steel-toe boots and water-boots with onychomycosis. The warm, dark, sweaty environment with poor air circulation is the perfect conditions for fungus to thrive.

• Painted toenails may look attractive, but the covering of the nail plate blocks out light. Fungus does not like light! Pedicures will also increase the risk of onychomycosis because it can be transferred from the files and clippers used.

• Fungus loves sugar and those of us who consume a lot of it are at risk of developing onychomycosis.

• Wearing tight, closed-in, high-heeled shoes will cause trauma to the nail plate and make them more susceptible to onychomycosis.

• Public facilities like gyms and locker rooms are notorious for spreading fungal infections. Swimming pools are usually safe because the chlorinated water should kill all of the microbes.

• Athletes who spend a lot of time in sneakers and training shoes will also be at risk. If the footwear is tight and the socks are made of man-made materials, this will make the situation even worse.

So, to avoid nasty, stubborn fungal nails, follow these rules:

1. Keep your feet clean and dry.

2. Alternate your shoes.

3. Wear flip-flops in communal showers and locker rooms.

4. Wear open-toed shoes as much as possible to allow light and air to circulate around your feet.

5. Avoid shoes and hosiery that are made from man-made fibres or plastic.

6. Give your nails a break from polish for two weeks out of every month to allow light to reach the nail plate.

7. Purchase your own pedicure kit for your nail technician to use and schedule your pedicures early in the morning as the instruments and the foot baths are typically cleanest at the beginning of the day.

8. Inspect your feet regularly and if you suspect nail changes, visit your podiatrist for diagnosis and treatment.

Angela Davis BSc (Hons) DPodM MChS is a podiatrist with offices in Montego Bay (293- 7119), Mandeville (962-2100), Ocho Rios (974-6339), Kingston (978-8392), and Savanna-la-Mar (955-3154). She is a member of the Health and Care Professions Council in the United Kingdom.

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