Why Does It Develop
A fungal nail infection occurs from the overgrowth of fungi in, under, or on the nail. Fungi thrive in warm, moist environments, so this type of environment can cause them to naturally overpopulate. The same fungi that cause jock itch, athletes foot, and ringworm can cause nail infections.
Fungi that are already present in or on your body can cause nail infections. If you have come in contact with someone else who has a fungal infection, you may have contracted it as well. Fungal infections affect toenails more commonly than fingernails, likely because your toes are usually confined to shoes, where theyre in a warm, moist environment.
If you get a manicure or pedicure at a nail salon, be sure to ask how the staff disinfects their tools and how often they do it. Tools, such as emery boards and nail clippers, can spread fungal infections from person to person if theyre not sanitized.
When To Seek Medical Care
Fungal nail infection does not always require treatment, but see your doctor for any nail disorder. Diabetics with foot problems should be evaluated because of the possible risk for developing foot ulcers. Your doctor may perform testing, such as scraping a nail to examine for fungi or clipping a nail to look for bacterial or fungal growth or to obtain a special stain to look for fungi under a microscope.
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Treating Fungal Nail Infection
Treatment may not be necessary in mild cases of fungal nail infection. For more severe or troublesome cases, antifungal medication may be recommended.
A fungal nail infection is unlikely to get better without treatment, but if youre not bothered by it you might decide its not worth treating because treatment can take a long time, may cause side effects, and isnt always effective.
Whether or not you decide to have treatment, you should still follow the self-help advice below to help stop the condition getting worse or spreading to others.
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Signs And Symptoms Of A Fungal Nail Infection
A fungal nail infection may not cause any obvious symptoms at first.
As it progresses, the infection can cause:
- discolouration of the nail it may turn white, black, yellow or green
- thickening and distortion of the nail it may become an unusual shape or texture and be difficult to trim
- pain or discomfort particularly when using or placing pressure on the affected toe or finger
- brittle or crumbly nails pieces may break off and come away completely
Sometimes the skin nearby may also become infected and be itchy and cracked or red and swollen.
When Should I Call The Doctor
In rare cases, toenail fungus can cause an infection called cellulitis. Without prompt treatment, cellulitis may pose a serious danger to your health.
You should seek treatment guidance from a trusted healthcare provider if you have:
- Circulation problems.
- Redness, pain or pus near the toenail.
- Weakened immune system.
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What Does Toenail Fungus Look Like In The Early Stages Yellow Nails
If youve never experienced the beginning stages of toenail fungus, its hard to know what to look for. If you choose to paint your nails or never look closely at your feet, its even harder to figure out.
One of the first symptoms of early-stage toenail fungus is yellow nails. This doesnt start out as a bright yellow, and if its still early in the process, its possible youll see white spots at first.
Yellow toenails are common, but that doesnt mean this is the only color they turn. Depending on you and how your body reacts to fungus within the body, your nails could change colors such as brown or green.
Any weird color on your nails deserves to get evaluated to ensure theres no fungal infection. Take off your nail polish if you wear it, and look closely so you dont miss anything.
If you notice such symptoms and have diabetes or an autoimmune disease, seek treatment right away. Getting proper treatment is a matter of preventing a greater problem from occurring.
Treatments For Fungal Nail Infections
Treatment isn’t always needed for a mild fungal nail infection because it’s unlikely to cause any further problems and you may feel it’s not worth treating.
Whether you decide to have treatment or not, you should still practise good foot hygiene to stop the infection getting worse or spreading to others.
Speak to your GP or pharmacist if you’re bothered by the appearance of the affected nail, or it’s causing problems such as pain and discomfort. They’ll probably recommend:
- antifungal tablets tablets taken once or twice a day for several months
- antifungal nail paints special paints applied directly to the nail over several months
- nail softening kits where a paste is used to soften infected parts of the nail, before they’re removed with a scraping device
A procedure to remove the nail completely may be recommended in severe cases. Laser treatment, where a high-energy laser is used to destroy the fungus, is also an option. But this is only available privately and can be expensive.
You can reduce your risk of developing a fungal nail infection by:
Nail salon equipment can sometimes be the source of fungal nail infections. If you regularly visit a salon, make sure any equipment used is properly sterilised between uses.
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What Causes Nail Fungus
The most common fungi involved in fungal nail infections are Trichophyton rubrum and Tricyphyton mentagraphyte. These fungi like warm, moist environments, such as shoes. Public areas like gym locker rooms, shower rooms and swimming pools are common areas of exposure to fungi. The feet have less blood circulation, making it harder for your immune system to fight off the fungi your feet are exposed to. Learn more about the causes, preventative measures and how to get rid of toenail fungus by visiting our FAQ page.
Can I Wear Nail Polish If I Have Toenail Fungus
You may feel tempted to cover up a discolored toenail with nail polish. If you are using a topical antifungal, you probably should not use polish. Some providers may tell you not to wear it in any case. Polish traps in moisture from the nailbed . Because fungi thrive in moist environments, wearing nail polish may make a fungal infection worse. However, the nail continues to grow with or without polish.
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How Do You Cure Fingernail Fungus Fast
Often, you can take care of a fungal nail infection at home: Try over-the-counter antifungal nail creams and ointments. Several products are available. If you notice white markings on the surfaces of the nails, file them off, soak your nails in water, dry them, and apply the medicated cream or lotion.
Causes Of Toenail Fungus
Your toenails are frequently being exposed to the pathogen that causes fungal infections.
In fact, fungus and bacteria can be found almost anywhere, from public pools and locker rooms to the inside of your own shoes warm, damp, and dark places are the perfect environment for fungus to thrive. And when it finds a home in which to fester, the fungus begins to damage the keratin in the nail and, in severe cases, even cause debilitating pain.
However, fungal toenails can also develop in other ways in some cases, the fungus is contracted after an initial injury to the nail bed. Something as simple as a stubbed toe or an ingrown toenail can make the area more susceptible to the development of this condition.
In other cases, toenail fungus is the result of other underlying conditions that may contribute to a person developing infections in general. A good example of this is diabetes if you are living with diabetes, then you are already at a higher risk of infection, so when fungi comes into the picture, it is likely to take hold of the nail quite quickly.
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Whos At Risk For Fungal Infections
There are many different causes of fungal nail infections. Each cause has a treatment of its own. Although many of the causes of a fungal nail infection are preventable, some risk factors increase the likelihood of developing one. Youre more likely to develop a fungal nail infection if you:
- wear closed-toe shoes, such as tennis shoes or boots
Nail infections occur more often in men than in women, and the infections are found in adults more often than in children. If you have family members who often get these types of fungal infections, youre more likely to get them as well.
Older adults have a high risk for getting fungal nail infections because they have poorer circulation. The nails also grow more slowly and thicken as we age.
A fungal infection of the nail may affect part of the nail, the entire nail, or several nails.
Common signs of a fungal nail infection include:
- a distorted nail that may lift off from the nail bed
- an odor coming from the infected nail
- a brittle or thickened nail
Nail Fungal Infection Treatment
Prescription medicines can treat a fungal nail infection. Oral antifungal medicines help a new nail grow. This will replace the infected nail. You may need to take antifungal medicine for 6 to 12 weeks. Some oral medicines are not safe for people who have liver problems. They are not safe for people who have a history of congestive heart failure. Tell your doctor if you have one of these conditions. Your doctor will decide which medicine is right for you.
Apply topical treatments to the top of your nail. Topical medicines usually do not cure fungal nail infections.
In severe cases, a doctor might remove the nail completely. It can take several months to a year for the infection to go away.
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If this happens be sure you perform proper wound care to prevent infection. Women who use acrylic nails for prolonged periods of time are also a high risk groups. Acrylic nail fungus usually occurs when acrylic nails are inadequately fitted.
Top 3 Reasons To Treat Nail Fungus
One of the most common reasons patients want to treat their nail fungus is to improve the appearance of their nails.
This is especially true of fingernails, but even toenails can be a concern during the summer when they are more visible. Nail fungus can cause embarrassment and some sufferers stop activities, such as yoga or swimming, so that others will not see their toenails.
Pain and Mobility
If left untreated, fungal nail infections can cause pain and mobility problems. These can occur as the nails thicken when the infection progresses. It may become uncomfortable to wear closed shoes and to walk, exercise or stand. For this reason, early treatment is recommended before the infection becomes more severe or has spread to other toenails.
Recurrence and Transmission
Although nail fungus rarely causes serious health risks, the nail can become a fungal reservoir leading to recurrent fungal infections of the skin. These can cause fissures or cracks, leaving the feet more vulnerable to secondary bacterial infections. People with a weakened immune system, such as diabetes or peripheral vascular disease, may be more susceptible to both fungal infections and other secondary infections, resulting from it such as cellulitis.
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Diagnosing And Treating Toenail Changes
If you notice changes in the appearance of your toenails, see a doctor promptly. If a fungal infection is suspected, a sample of the nail can be taken and analyzed by a lab to make a diagnosis. If the test comes back positive, an oral or topical antifungal medication may be prescribed to treat the fungus. Most antifungal medications are effective against most forms of toenail fungus, although treatment can take some time, in part because its hard to deliver any type of medication through the nail plate to the skin under the nail.
Most of the time, the treatment requires the whole nail to grow out, which can take up to a year, says Sheth. Treatment needs to be consistent and long-term if it has any chance of working.
If the test comes back negative for fungus, your doctor may begin investigating other causes for the abnormal appearance of your toenails. Sometimes symptoms involving other parts of the body help point to a diagnosis.
People with yellow nail syndrome, for example, may experience leg swelling or breathing problems. Those with alopecia could see their hair begin to fall out.
And, according to Goad, With psoriasis, patches of red, scaly skin may be seen on the knees, elbows, and face, too. Its usually not limited to just the toenails.
Additional reporting by Susan Jara
Treatment Of Nail Fungal Infection At Different Stages
Treatment of onychomycosis at the first stage is crucial as the infection hasnt exacerbated yet and therefore is easier to heal. Topical treatments, such as anti-fungal creams and gels or medicated nail polish are the most commonly used at this stage. However, it is ideal to use a topically-applied medication that not only can kill the fungus, but can penetrate the nail as well.
Most topical treatments dont work because they cant penetrate the nail to get to the fungi. It is therefore recommended for sufferers to use a topical medication that can penetrate the nail and kill the fungus. A solution with 10% undecylenic acid, which can effectively get rid of the infection, and a penetrating agent , is recommended.
For moderate nail fungus infection, such topical solutions can still work. However, many sufferers use that in conjunction with oral medicines. Many anti-fungal pills in the market can treat fungal nail infection, though it is still suggested to use such medicines along with topical solutions .
Unfortunately, oral medicines are also more likely to cause side effects to patients. They are also not recommended for the elderly, pregnant women, and those who have other medical conditions or ailments.
But again, fungi can come back, even without the nail itself. This is why its recommended for patients to use topical anti-fungal ointment to the nail bed and surrounding skin while waiting for the nail to grow back. Otherwise, the fungi will just return.
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Toenail Fungus Looks Like Bruise
Toenail fungus looks like bruiseToenail pain often comes along with a bruise under the nail, a black toenail, or infected skin around the toenail. The most common cause of toenail pain is an ingrown toenail , a fungal infected toenail, or a trauma-related injury to the toenail which can also cause blood under the nail.
How Do I Know If I Have A Fungal Nail Infection
Because other infections can affect the nail and mimic symptoms of a fungal nail infection, the only way to confirm a diagnosis is to see a doctor. Theyll take a scraping of the nail and look under a microscope for signs of fungus.
In some cases, your doctor may send the sample to a lab for analysis and identification.
Over-the-counter products arent usually recommended to treat nail infections since they dont provide reliable results. Instead, your doctor may prescribe an oral antifungal medication, such as:
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