Safe Toenail Fungus Treatments for the Elderly
Why Toenail Fungus Infection is More Common in Elderly People
Although toenail fungus infection can affect people of all ages, those who are 60 years old and above are more likely to suffer from it than those who are younger. The condition affects nearly 20% of seniors, while it only affects 2.6% of children younger than 18. There are several factors why people over 60 are at an increased risk of nail alterations and disorders, and these point to their less-than-optimal health.
Older people generally have weakened circulation on their distal extremities, impaired immune system, and faulty biomechanics. They also undergo normal age-related changes and disorders, making them more susceptible to nail fungus infections.
Also, elderly people who have health issues such as diabetes are doubly at risk of acquiring nail fungus infections.
Risks of Nail Fungus Infection
Toe nail fungus is normally non-life threatening. However, particularly for older age group, such infections can lead to worse health problems. Apart from poor aesthetic outcome, nail fungus infection can lead to pain and discomfort, interfere with basic movement activities (standing, walking etc.), and cause disfigurement of the toes.
The infection can also spread to other nails and can invite recurrent bacterial infections. Bacterial infections often lead to other complications, which can exacerbate an older person’s existing health problems or create new ones.
Onychomycosis can also spread beyond the toes and feet if the sufferer has debilitated immune system due to old age or other health conditions such as diabetes. If the sufferer also takes other medications, this can aggravate the condition and even render onychomycosis treatments useless.
Hence, elderly people with health problems are advised to consult medical advice if they suspect they have nail fungus infection. They should get proper diagnosis and avoid self-medicating so as not to worsen their condition.
Safe and Effective Treatments for Nail Fungus Infections for the Elderly
The elderly have poorer response to onychomycosis therapies compared to other age groups. Oral anti-fungal medicines have a high rate of success in curing nail fungus infections, but that rate reduces in older people. This may be because the medications they are taking for other conditions are rendering the anti-fungal treatments ineffective.
It could also be the other way around: the effectiveness of the medicines they take for their other health problems can be reduced, and this makes it more dangerous. This is why oral medicines for nail fungus infections are usually not prescribed to older patients.
It is crucial that the toenail fungus treatments for the elderly are not just effective, but completely safe as well. It could be oral treatments, but these should have been prescribed by a qualified physician.
Other treatments that have lesser risks than oral medications include topical ointments, surgery, essential oils and other alternatives, and laser therapy. Medicated nail lacquers are also an option for patients with mild cases of nail fungal infection or superficial white onychomycosis. These treatments have varying effectiveness, depending on the condition of the nail fungus infection.
Topical ointments don’t have the side effects and health risks that oral or systemic treatments come with. Hence, they are generally safe for the elderly. However, their success rates are also on the low side. Traditional topical treatments or medications that are applied directly on the nail or skin cannot penetrate the thickened nail to kill the fungus within.
That said, there are newer and improved topical medications that have high treatment success rate. These are products that have 10% undecylenic acid as the active ingredient. They also have a penetrating agent, usually in the form of essential oils like tea tree oil, to kill the fungus behind the thick nails.
Although some people recommend essential oils for treating nail fungi, essential oils alone have poor success rate. With few cases of exceptions, essential oils are said to be safe for most people, including the elderly.
Surgery as toenail fungus treatment isn’t as scary as it sounds. It is only the surgical removal of the infected toenail. This is rarely advised by a physician, only on severe nail fungus infection cases. This is done to stop the infection and to let a new, healthy nail grow in the infected nail’s place.
According to a study, long pulse 1064 nm ND: YAG laser therapy is a safe and effective treatment of toenail fungus infection. Like all other treatment options for onychomycosis, laser therapy requires weeks of treatment and several sessions. However, this option is probably the most expensive of all, with most, if not all, health insurance companies not covering this treatment.
While onychomycosis is usually not bothersome, some of us don’t have the luxury of ignoring such condition. The elderly, for instance, are recommended to consult with their physicians if they suspect they suffer from nail fungi.
As data shows, the elderly are more susceptible to suffering from nail fungi infection. They are also less likely to respond positively to treatments, more specifically the orally administered medications. As they undergo normal changes and disorders associated with age, their response to therapies for onychomycosis also weakens. This partly explains why oral medicines, which are generally deemed the most effective treatment option but also have the highest risks, are not ordinarily prescribed to older patients in treating nail fungus infections.
It is important that older people not only get proper diagnosis of their condition, but also correct treatment. Doctors can prescribe the correct medicine based on the severity of the infection, the patient’s underlying health conditions, the medicines he/she currently takes, and other factors.
Safety is paramount in looking for toenail fungus treatment for the elderly. We seek effective treatments to get rid of our ailments, but if said treatments harm us in other ways, then they are not worth it.