Nail fungus and athlete’s feet, a common problem.

Dr. rer. nat. Volker Krainbring

Nail fungus and athtlete’s feet is a widespread condition affecting 16 Million people in Germany alone. Both conditions are closely related, highly uncomfortable and often take a long time to treat.

Especially the treatment of nail fungus requires a lot of time and patients – about 12 to 24 months – because the nail has to regrow completely. Next to regular treatment, good hygienic habits are important, in particularly changing socks daily and washing them at 60-65 degrees to kill the spores. Likewise, shoes should be disinfected weekly.

Next to ointments, nail polishes and salves treatment often needs to be systemic with orally ingested pills, which often have strong side effects, in particular damage to the liver.

In 98 % of cases, nail fungus is caused by so-called dermatophytes. They live on the nail’s keratin tissue and dead skin particles. They proliferate especially in warm and moist surroundings, such as is generated e. g. when wearing exercise or work shoes. They are distributed by spores, which is why the common practice of filing nails is harmful since it produces a fine powder which proliferates the spores.

On top of these factors, dermatophytes have acquired a high level of resistance against common antimykotika. Moren than 50 percent of dermatophytes are resistant. Thus, every treatment, including systemic treatment with pills, has less than a 50 percent change of success.

However, evolution has provided humans with a very effective natural skin protection. After loosing strong corporal hair, such as had the Neanderthals, evolution created skin’s acid barrier, providing protection from parasites and fungi.

It is a scientific fact that not a single type of dermatophytes survives in an acidic environment, or proliferate their spores. They die. Fungal infections thus can only occur with a defective acidic barrier. Causes differ: injuries, alkaloid soaps, genetic differences in the skin’s pH levels, bad circulation. The latter is something of which particularly older diabetics suffer, meaning that almost every second diabetic over 60 has nail fungus.

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