April 6, 2015
Foot Care and Prevent Amputations – Part 2
Onychomycosis is very difficult and sometimes impossible to treat, and therapy is often long-term. Therapy consists of topical treatments that are applied directly to the nails, as well as two systemic drugs, griseofulvin and ketoconazole. Topical therapy is reserved for only the mildest cases. The use of griseofulvin and ketoconazole is problematic, and there are typically high relapse rates of 50-85%. In addition, treatment must be continued for a long duration (10-18 months for toenails), with monthly laboratory monitoring for several side effects, including liver toxicity. Individuals taking these medications must also abstain from alcohol consumption.
In the last five years, newer oral antifungal agents have been developed, and include itraconazole (Sporanox), terbinafine (Lamisil), and fluconazole (Diflucan). These agents, when taken orally for as little as 12 weeks, bring about better cure rates and fewer side effects than either griseofulvin or ketoconazole. The most common side effect is stomach upset. Patients taking oral antifungal therapy must have a complete blood count and liver enzyme workup every four to six weeks. Terbinafine in particular has markedly less toxicity to the liver, one of the more severe side effects of the older agents, griseofulvin and ketoconazole.
Treatment should be continued until microscopic exam or culture shows no more fungal infection. Nails may, however, continue to look damaged even after a clinical cure is achieved. Nails may take up to a full year to return to normal. If the nail growth slows or stops, additional doses of antifungal therapy should be taken.
Nail debridement is another treatment option, but it is considered by many to be primitive compared with topical or systemic treatment. Clinicians perform nail debridement in their offices. The nail is cut and then thinned using surgical tools or chemicals, and then the loose debris under the nail is removed. The procedure is painless, and often improves the appearance of the nails immediately. In addition, it helps whatever medication being used to penetrate the newly thinned nail. Patients with very thickened nails will sometimes undergo chemical removal of a nail. A combination of oral, topical, and surgical removal can increase the chances of curing the infection.
In general, nutrition may also play a role in promoting good nail health and thus preventing nail disease. Adequate protein and minerals, in the form of nuts, seeds, whole grains, legumes, fresh vegetables, and fish, should be consumed. Sugars, alcohol, and caffeine should be avoided.
Onychomycosis is typically quite difficult to cure completely. Even if a clinical cure is achieved after long therapy with either topical or oral drugs, normal regrowth takes four to six months in the fingernails, and eight to 12 months in the toenails, which grow more slowly. Relapse is common, and often, the nail or nail bed is permanently damaged.
Keeping the feet clean and dry, and washing with soap and water and drying thoroughly are important preventive steps to take to prevent onychomycosis. Other preventive measures include keeping the nails cut short and wearing shower shoes whenever walking or showering in public places. Daily changes of shoes, socks, or hosiery are also helpful.
Excessively tight hose or shoes promote moisture, which in turn, provides a wonderful environment for onychomycotic infections. To prevent this, individuals should wear only socks made of synthetic fibers, which can absorb moisture more quickly than those made of cotton or wools. Manicure and pedicure tools should be disinfected after each use. Finally, nail polish should not be applied to nails that are infected, as this causes the water or moisture that collects under the surface of the nail to not evaporate and be trapped.