By: Miranda Schwartz
Podiatrists are increasingly concerned with the spread of fungal nail infection. “In New York alone, an estimated 620,000 people – one in every 25 – already have fungal nail infections and are at risk of spreading them to others,” says Hiram Chirel, DPM, executive director of the New York State Podiatric Medical Association.
Considered a public health threat, fungal nail infection, or onychomycosis, can begin as athlete’s foot. The skin around and between the toes is affected first, and the fungus can then creep into the nail beds where it becomes a fungal nail infection. Once the infection enters the nail bed it is identified by yellowing and thickening of the nail, accumulation of debris under the nail, detachment of the nail plate, and pain. If fungal infections get to this stage, they are much harder to get rid of.
Anyone of any age can catch fungal nail infections, but people with diabetes, those over 40, recreational athletes and people with weakened immune systems are most at risk.
Fungi that cause onychomycosis breed any place people go barefoot. A doctor or podiatrist should be consulted if athlete’s foot and/or nail infection is suspected.
Janssen Pharmaceutica hopes to educate the public and help the estimated 11 million Americans who already have nail infections. To this end, it recently provided grants to the New York, California and Illinois podiatric medical associations to sponsor awareness and prevention campaigns. In addition, Janssen is sponsoring a toll-free consumer education hotline at (800) 595-NAILS to provide information on fungal nail infection and its treatments.
These simple preventive measures can help stop the spread of infections caused by fungi:
- Avoid going barefoot in public places. Wear flip-flops in locker rooms, pools, gyms or hotel showers.
- Don’t share towels.
- Treat athlete’s foot before it gets a chance to spread to nails.
- If you know someone with fungal nail symptoms, encourage him or her to see a doctor. New oral antifungal therapy is available.