I get a home service when I need a pedicure. If sanitation and cleanliness were my early concerns, maybe I could have avoided getting what seemed to be a mild fungal infection and an infected wound from my technician’s nipper.
For years, I was ignorant why one of my toenails had distorted shape. I thought my nail was just dying and it would be replaced soon. My technician told me that and I believed. Eventually, I had a “new” and healthy nail. However, after further reading, it is not a dying nail because of natural causes. I might had suffered from a toenail fungus.
Fungal Nail Infection
Fingernail or toenail fungus can cause onychomycosis, also known as tinea unguium or fungal infection. This is the type of fungal infection that affects the toenails and fingernails. Overtime, fungus starts to overgrow so it is often at a later stage when you realize that your nails have been infected.
A nail fungus often starts as a tiny spot of yellow, white or green under the nail. The spot is usually located near the edge. Along with other symptoms that get worse as the fungal infection grows deeper underneath the nail. Eventually, the entire nail is consumed by the fungus including its nail bed— the part of the nail where the new nail grows. As a result, the new nail is also infected.
Here are the signs that you are suffering from a toenail fungus infection:
- A discoloration under the nail usually found near the nail’s edge. It is often a yellow, green or white patch.
- Thickened nails
- Sore or painful nails
- Once the infection has spread, the whole nail has discoloration which is either black, yellow or green.
- The edges of your nails are crumbling
- The nails produce foul smell or odor
- The nail texture becomes irregular and rough
- Distorted nail shape
- The skin surrounding the nail becomes scaly
- There is swelling, inflammation, and redness surrounding the nail.
- The nail may possibly lift from the nail bed like it’s falling off.
Development of Toenail Fungus
The fungus that causes athlete’s foot, ringworm and jock itch is the same fingernail and toenail fungus. A fungus thrives in moist and warm places. The overgrowth of fungi under, in or on the nail causes the infection.
Interestingly, it is more common for toenails to have a fungal infection than fingernails. According to American Academy of Dermatology (AAD), since your toes are generally confined to your shoes, they are usually exposed in a warm and damp environment. That’s why it is advised, if you are always wearing closed-toe shoes, you should make sure that your feet, socks, and shoes are always clean and dry. Also, if you are a regular salon goer, you should be aware on how the nail salons you are visiting disinfect their tools and the frequency of doing it. Fungal infections are highly contagious for tools like nail clippers and emery boards if these are not properly sanitized.
Who, Where and When
There are many reasons how a toenail fungus can infect a person and each of these reasons has its own course of treatment. Though most of the causes of the infection can be avoided, some risk factors can increase the possibility of having it. Here are the factors that can cause fungal nail infection:
- Age is more than 65 years old
- Having an illness resulting to poor blood circulation like diabetes
- Having a weak immune system
- Swimming in a public pool or using public saunas and gyms
- Wearing closed-toe shoes like boots and tennis shoes
- Having moist fingers or toes for quite a long time
- Having skin injury surrounding the nail
- Having nail injury
Older people have the highest risk to get nail fungal infections because they have poorer blood circulation and their nails grow slower and thicker as they grow old. Also, men tend to have more cases of this fungal infection than women because men, in general, are more frequent users of public saunas, showers, pools, and gyms. However, in the cases of women, the source of the toenail fungus is often the place where they seek pampering and peace— nail salons.
If you are asking if you can get infected by toenail fungus by getting a pedicure in your favorite nail salon or even at home, the answer is yes!
How Nails Salons and the Tools Spread Toenail Fungus
Nail salons are popular for women of all ages. Some of these salons are expensive with a promise of a high-quality service. There are also the low-cost or affordable nail salons. Though they charge cheaper, it doesn’t mean their services are bad. Though it is possible to get infected to any nail salon, the probability is higher for low-cost salons which often does not maintain regular disinfecting of their salon tools.
That’s why it is important to find out how nail salons and your technician clean and disinfect their tools. The toenail fungus can quickly spread if their method of sterilizing is incorrect. If you want to avoid infection, then you have to take extra caution when having a pedicure.
In choosing your nail salon and technician, here are some points that you need to consider are the following:
- What is the sterilization process of the salon?
- How often do they clean their tools? Are there several sets of tools so they can appropriately disinfect the used tools?
- Are they wearing gloves? Do they change it after each customer? The gloves protect the worker and prevent the spread of the fungi.
- Do they regularly wipe down and disinfect foot rests and pedestals?
If you are seeing any red flag from the nail salon such as signs of uncleanliness or exposure to risk factors, then you should look for a different salon. A technician should stop using tools if they are dropped and they should not use the same tools on more than one customer. In both cases, their standard procedure is to disinfect the tools first before using them again.
If you want to be more cautious, you can bring your own tools to be used by the technician. Make sure that you have properly disinfected your tools. Are you bringing your own nail polish? There’s no way you can disinfect this product so it’s safer to use your personal nail polish. It is also worth checking with the Better Business Bureau if the nail salon ha any complaints from its former clients.
In case you got infected with a toenail fungus from your pedicure in the salon, it means you are not the only person who may be affected especially if the spa is consistent with its unsanitary habits. It is recommended that you report the issue to your local health department or proper authorities.
The Cure for Fungal Nail Infection
Here are some medical methods to eliminate fungal infections:
- Pills for antifungal medications such as clotrimazole.
- Antifungal cream or ointment for topical medication
- Laser treatments such as Pinpointed-type and Fox Diode
- Surgical removal of the infected nail
- Surgical destruction of the nail matrix
If you are already infected with toenail fungus, treating it can be quite complex. For an already advanced nail infection, the main problem is that fact that the fungi have spread on the entire nail including the nail bed which is at the base of the nail.
In order to have successful treatment, a totally new nail must grow while you are having treatment. Treatment can take up to one year depending on the patient. It is important to entirely cure the infection or else it won’t be successful because the toenail fungus will reappear after you stop treatment.