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Nails Fungus

As a nurse, you will encounter patients with a wide range of health issues. Because nurses are the healthcare professionals that patients and their families interact with the most, it is essential for nurses to understand medical conditions, their causes, and their treatments. Additionally, having a solid foundation on disease processes helps nurse be better equipped to educate patients and their loved ones for improved health outcomes. 

Nail fungus, medically known as onychomycosis, is a common condition that affects many individuals, posing health and aesthetic concerns. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, fungal nail infections affect up to 14% of the general population. Learning about the issue and how to treat it is essential to helping your patients.

This Fast CE For Less guide will provide you with a good understanding of nail fungus. We will discuss everything from the causes of nail fungus to symptoms, effective treatments, and how to prevent it.

What is Nail Fungus?

Fungi are a type of organism that includes molds, mushrooms, and yeasts. While many fungi are harmless, some of them can cause infections. Fungal infections occur mainly in warm and moist conditions, like shower floors or from the moist conditions in a person’s shoes. When it comes to fungal infections in nails, fungi thrive on the keratin that makes up a person’s nails.

Due to their dependency on keratin, some fungi can target a person’s nails, leading to fungal infections. Fungal nail infections happen primarily on toenails due to conditions within a person’s shoe, offering a safe environment for fungi. However, fungal nail infections can also occur in the nails of a person’s fingers. While most nail fungus infections are not serious, they can have a significant impact on a person’s health.

What Causes Nail Fungus and What are the Symptoms?

To understand how to treat and prevent fungal nail infections, you must learn their causes and their symptoms. In this section of the guide, we will cover the causes and symptoms of nail fungus.

Causes of Nail Fungus

Nail fungus often begins with a fungal infection from organisms called dermatophytes, though yeasts and molds can also be responsible. These fungi thrive in moist, warm environments, making places like gyms, nail salons, and public pools common areas for acquiring fungal infections. Poor nail hygiene can increase susceptibility, as it can damage the nail bed, allowing the fungi easier access.

Symptoms of Nail Fungus

The symptoms of nail fungus include thickening of the nail, a change in nail color to a duller or darker shade, brittleness, and irregular nail shape. Infected nails may also separate from the nail bed, a condition known as onycholysis. Patients may notice discomfort or pain, especially when the infected nails are subjected to pressure. Noticing these signs early can lead to more effective treatments and potentially avoid complications such as secondary bacterial infections.

How Does Nail Fungus Appear and Spread?

As nurses, you will often encounter patients concerned about changes in how their nails look. Nail fungus typically starts appearing as if the nail is getting thicker, discolored (often yellow, brown, or white), and brittle.

These changes can cause the nail to start crumbling at the edge. It is important to understand how nail fungus spreads to prevent outbreaks in healthcare settings and at home.

The infection can spread from one nail to another and be transmitted through direct contact with infected surfaces, such as towels, shoes, or nail equipment. Educating patients about maintaining personal hygiene and avoiding shared items is important to prevent this from happening.

What are the Side Effects of Nail Fungus?

To help your patients understand how serious it is, you must explain the potential side effects fungal nail infections can have if they leave the problem untreated. In addition to the obvious change in how the nails look, fungal nail infections can cause pain and discomfort, especially while wearing shoes or walking.

Eventually, severe cases can cause permanent damage to the nails. Due to the damage, fungal nail infections can cause secondary bacterial infections. Secondary infections are a greater risk for people with weak immune systems or those suffering from diabetes. It is important to understand these risks to guide your patients to the right treatment options and prevent severe health issues.

The Difference of Nail Fungus on Hands vs. Feet

While fungal nail infections mostly occur on the toenails, it can affect a person’s hands. Understanding the differences between the two can help you offer better advice to patients. Fungal infections on hands and feet are both caused by the same fungus. However, the infection develops more often in feet due to the moist and dark conditions in shoes.

Fungal infections in a person’s hands occur mainly due to exposure to water from activities like washing dishes. These infections can also happen due to the fungus being transmitted from another person through nail clippers or other items used at a nail salon.

What are the Common Locations Where People Contract Nail Fungus?

Prevention is the best cure for any health problem. Knowing where a nail fungus is most likely to be transmitted is important for prevention. The high-risk areas where people can get fungal nail infections include public showers, gyms, nail salons, and swimming pools.

All these environments are often warm and moist, both of which are ideal for fungal growth. It is important to educate your patients on wearing protective footwear in public showers. You should also advise patients visiting nail salons to make sure they go to licensed and certified locations. Nail salons that do not sterilize their instruments properly are a major source of fungal nail infections.

Tips to Prevent Fungal Nail Infections

Here are some helpful tips you can offer to patients to help them prevent getting nail fungus:

  • Keep your toenails and fingernails clean and short
  • Avoid sharing nail clippers with other people
  • Use sterilized nail clippers, especially in nail salons
  • Do not walk barefoot when visiting public showers

How to Treat Nail Fungus

Medical Treatments for Nail Fungus

When a person contracts nail fungus, there are several ways a healthcare providers may provide treatment. Nail fungus can be difficult to cure. Whether a person has hand nail or toenail fungus, it is essential to start treatment as early as possible to get the best results.

Oral antifungal medications are the most common treatment. The medicine promotes the growth of new nails that are free of fungal infection. However, healthcare providers must monitor the effects of these medicines due to possible side effects, such as itching, burning, redness, induced liver injury, and stomach pains, and more possible side effects. Healthcare providers may also prescribe topical treatments like nail creams. These topical treatments are not as effective by themselves but can be helpful when combined with oral medicines.

Home Remedies for Nail Fungus

Patients can also use several home remedies to treat fungal infections. To help your patients get the best outcome, you should also know about and educate them on home remedies they can try to treat the condition.

In addition to over-the-counter antifungal treatments, patients can also try tea tree oil and vinegar soaks. While recommending these treatments, a nurse should also inform patients that home remedies may not be as effective as prescribed treatments.

Final Thoughts

Your awareness and knowledge of nail fungus is important in educating a patient on preventive measures and how to best manage the condition. Nail fungus can be difficult to treat and may affect a person’s self-image. Individuals should proactively ensure that nail clippers are sterilized, and foot protection is worn in public locations.

If you have not completed your nursing continuing education requirements, online nursing CEUs offered by Fast CE For Less can help. In addition to expanding your knowledge and skills in various specialty areas, courses offered by Fast CE For Less can help you fulfill your nurse continuing education requirements while managing your busy schedule.

To access flexible and affordable nursing continuation education course bundles, visit www.fastceforless.com.

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