Walk into any suburban shopping centre these days and you are bound to find a very busy nail salon. It looks like such a relaxing and pampering experience. The girls are all having a great time, chatting and laughing with their friends. The "Mani-Pedi" has become the perfect gift certificate to give someone you love...or more appropriately, to your worst enemy.
Nail salons have been cropping up everywhere. They cater to our desires for beauty - a perfect manicured hand and summer sandal worthy feet. However, for many people they are becoming a nightmare, due to the increasing risks of infections & diseases that are readily passed on by untrained, unlicensed and unscrupulous nail technicians. The health risks can range from minor irritations to serious problems that require proper medical attention. The costs of these health risks are not only physical, but can be emotionally and financially detrimental to repair.
The most common health risk to be aware of is the development of a fungal infection in the nail. Known as Onychomycosis, the fungus that affects nails can range from dermatophytes, yeasts (eg.Candida) and moulds, with the most common pathogen being the dermatophyte species Trichophyton (T.Rubrum and T.interdigitale).
When nail acrylics are applied, the natural nail is typically filed very thin, with little barrier to the underlying nail bed. When the acrylic is applied, there is the possibility that an improper seal allows air pockets to form. Moisture may become trapped between the acrylic and the natural nail and will form the perfect environment for a fungal infection to take hold. A dark, warm, moist environment is the perfect breeding ground for those "Fun Guys" to host a party on your fingernails and toenails. You may not even be aware that a fungal infection exists until you remove the coloured nail polish weeks or months later.
The fungal nail comes in an assortment of colours. The nail may appear to have a superficial, white, flaky discolouration, or it can be a rainbow spectrum of golden yellow, orange, green, blue, brown or black streaks. The nail may appear to have infection along one side of the nail, or it may spread to cover the entire nail and extend under the skin fold to the very base of where the nail forms. The nail may also typically become brittle, powdery, thick and crumbly or deformed in appearance. It may start in one nail and end up spreading into all of them. The more severe the infection, the harder it can be to treat and the longer it will take to resolve.
Fungal nail treatment can be difficult and should best be done under the advice of a Podiatrist or suitably qualified health care professional. My next article will focus on the treatment of fungal nails.