Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Dead toenail

Dead toenail skin cells are packed tightly together by specialized cells at the root of the nail. As more and more dead cells are added at the root, those that have already been piled up are pushed outward, toward the tip of the finger or toe. This produces a very hard plate to protect the tips of the fingers and toes - a plate that has no sensitive nerve endings, no blood supply, and no immunity to infection. It is essentially dead tissue.

If you have not suffered a nail injury and your black fingernail is slowly progressing and causing the nail to become thick, deformed, and crumbly, you may have true onychomycosis. Typically, infected nails are white, yellow, brown or black, and variations on these shades may be present. The infection often starts on a toenail and progresses to other toes and fingers, and is very resistant to treatment. If you suspect you have a fungal nail infection, make an appointment with your physician for a proper diagnosis.

Fungal infection of fingernails and toenails is called onychomycosis. Only a few species of fungus are capable of invading human hair and nails - they often gain access through a break in the skin or under the nail at the tip of the finger or toe. Because they derive their nutrients from the protein found in human nails and dead skin cells, these fungi do not invade healthy tissue. Instead, they invade the matrix of the nail itself and grow there, causing a black fingernail or toenail.

Successful treatment of a fungal nail infection hinges on getting the medication to the fungus. Again, the nail's protective features make it difficult to achieve this because any applied treatment tends not to penetrate the nail to kill the fungus. People have come up with various strategies to get around this problem. Soaking the feet in dilute solutions of chlorine bleach, vinegar, or hydrogen peroxide not only acts on any fungus it contacts, but also soften up the toenails. If you then use a file across the top surface of the toenail dead crumbly infected nail will be filed away and a lower layer will be exposed. Treatment can then be applied, and the process repeated daily until the nail infection is gone.

Though topical antifungals are not usually very good at penetrating nail, some of the newer natural remedies claim to do a better job. In addition, one topical prescription drug is now available, along with several oral antifungal medications. Be aware, however, that these prescription drugs are expensive and have the potential for unpleasant side effects.