Despite the fact that nail fungus infections (also known as Onychomycosis, tinea unguim or ringworm of the nails) affect almost 40 million people in the US, there is still a great deal of misunderstanding about the disease. Unfortunately this misunderstanding contributes directly to the high prevalence rate so its time to bust some of the myths that surround the condition.
The first myth is that toenail fungus infections is simply a cosmetic problem that will go away on its own. This is simply not true. The disease is progressive in nature and its very rare for it to clear up if left untreated. Its also more serious than most people realize. Although its not painful in early stages, as it progresses it causes very ugly looking yellow nails which can detach and fall off completely. Advanced cases can be painful especially if wearing tight fitting shoes.
The second myth is that all antifungal products can cause serious side effects. This is true only of certain oral medications which have been associated with liver damage. But there are a wide range of topical antifungal creams such as Tineacide and Zetaclear for example that are made from natural ingredients and are safe to use. Some sufferers are so concerned with antifungals that they resort to using home remedies such as white wine vinegar or Listerine. Unfortunately its unlikely that these will be successful in treating nail fungus infections.
The third myth is that the condition is easy to treat. Unfortunately this is not the case as the fungus typically resides underneath the nail making it hard to reach. In order to successfully treat the condition it often requires several weeks and even months of regular application. And its this ability to stick to a consistent treatment rather than the specific actual antifungal drug being used that makes the difference. Patience and persistence is what is rewarded most.
The fourth myth is that the infection is not very contagious. Again this is incorrect. The disease can easily be spread via direct or indirect contact, particularly in places that are moist, dark and airless and where people walk around barefoot. The changing rooms at a public gym are an obvious example but nail fungus infections can also be caught by having a pedicure at a nail salon that does not sterilize their nail instruments between customers. With almost 1 in 10 adults in the US with an active infection, the lack of understanding about the disease and how easily it can spread, is an important public health consideration.