Nail fungus, also known as onychomycosis, is a fungal infection that affects the nails of the fingers or toes. It is common when a fungus, such as a dermatophyte or yeast, invades the nail bed and nail plate.
The fungus thrives in warm, moist environments such as public showers, locker rooms, and swimming pools. It can also occur as a result of poor hygiene, trauma to the nail, or an underlying health condition such as diabetes or a weakened immune system.
There are several types of nail fungus, each with its own set of symptoms. Here are the most common types of nail fungus and their symptoms:
Types Of Nail Fungus and Their Symptoms
Distal Subungual Onychomycosis (DSO)
This is the most common type of nail fungus and typically affects the toenails. The fungus starts at the nail’s end and works towards the cuticle. Symptoms include a thickened, discolored nail that may become brittle and crumble.
White Superficial Onychomycosis (WSO)
This type of nail fungus is less common than DSO and affects the nail’s top layers. Symptoms include white spots or patches on the nail that gradually spread and can lead to the nail becoming soft and crumbly.
Proximal Subungual Onychomycosis (PSO)
This type of nail fungus usually begins at the nail’s base and works towards the tip. It is more commonly seen in people with weakened immune systems. Symptoms include a white or yellow spot at the base of the nail, which gradually spreads toward the tip.
This type of nail fungus is caused by a yeast infection and can affect both fingernails and toenails. Symptoms include a thickened, discolored nail that may separate from the nail bed.
This is a rare type of nail fungus that affects the inner layer of the nail. Symptoms include a white discoloration of the nail that can become brown or black.
It’s important to note that nail fungus symptoms can vary depending on the type of fungus and the severity of the infection. If you suspect you have nail fungus, seeing a doctor for proper diagnosis and treatment is best.
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What does nail fungus look like?
The appearance of nail fungus can vary depending on the type of fungus and the severity of the infection. Here are some common signs and symptoms of nail fungus:
Thickened nails: The affected nail may become thicker than usual.
Discolored nails: The nail may become yellow, brown, or white.
Crumbly or brittle nails: The nail may become easily broken or crumbly.
Distorted nail shape: The nail may become distorted and change shape.
Separation of the nail from the nail bed: The nail may become separated from the nail bed, which can cause pain and discomfort.
White or yellow spots: Small white or yellow spots may appear on the nail.
Foul odor: Sometimes, nail fungus can produce a foul odor.
It’s important to note that nail fungus can affect both fingernails and toenails. If you notice any of these symptoms, it’s best to see a doctor or a dermatologist for proper diagnosis and treatment.
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Who is at risk of fungal nail infections?
Anyone can get a fungal nail infection, but certain factors can increase the risk of developing the condition. Here are some common risk factors for fungal nail infections:
Age: As people age, the nails become weaker and more prone to infection.
Gender: Men are more likely than women to develop fungal nail infections.
Diabetes: People with diabetes are more likely to develop fungal nail infections.
Weakened immune system: People with weakened immune systems are more susceptible to fungal infections, including nail fungus.
Poor circulation: People with poor circulation in their hands or feet may be more likely to develop nail fungus.
Nail trauma: Injuries to the nail, such as a crack or break, can allow fungi to enter the nail bed and cause an infection.
Excessive sweating: People who sweat excessively, especially on their hands or feet, may be more prone to fungal nail infections.
Walking barefoot in public places: Walking barefoot in damp public places like swimming pools, locker rooms, and showers can increase the risk of fungal nail infections.
Wearing tight-fitting shoes: Too-tight shoes can cause the feet to sweat, creating a warm, moist environment ideal for fungal growth.
If you have any of these risk factors and suspect a fungal nail infection, it’s best to see a doctor or dermatologist for proper diagnosis and treatment.
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How do you know what type of toenail fungus you have?
It can be difficult to determine the exact type of toenail fungus you have without the help of a healthcare professional. A dermatologist or a podiatrist can examine the affected nail and perform tests to identify the specific type of fungus causing the infection. A microscopic examination of the nail sample can identify the type of fungus responsible for the infection.
Once your healthcare provider has identified the type of toenail fungus you have, they can recommend the appropriate treatment options, which may include topical or oral antifungal medications, laser therapy, or in severe cases, surgical removal of the nail.
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How long does it take to cure fungal nail infections?
The duration of treatment for a fungal nail infection can vary depending on the severity of the infection, the type of fungus causing the infection, the treatment method used, and the individual’s response to treatment. Generally, it can take several months to a year or more to fully cure a fungal nail infection.
Topical treatments such as antifungal nail lacquers or creams are typically applied daily for several months, and it may take up to a year for the infected nail to grow out completely. Oral antifungal medications may also be prescribed; treatment usually lasts several weeks or months.
It is important to continue treatment until the infection is completely gone and the affected nail has grown out fully. Failure to complete the full course of treatment can lead to a recurrence of the infection. Maintaining good foot hygiene and avoiding exposure to damp environments can also help prevent future infections.
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How to prevent a fungal infection of the nails?
Here are some tips on preventing fungal nail infections:
- Keep your nails clean and dry: Wash your feet and hands regularly with soap and water, and dry them thoroughly. Use a separate towel for your feet.
- Trim your nails: Trim your nails straight across and keep them short. Use a nail file to smooth the edges.
- Wear appropriate footwear: Wear shoes that fit well and allow your feet to breathe. Choose shoes made from breathable materials such as leather or mesh. Avoid tight shoes and wear flip-flops or sandals in public places like swimming pools and locker rooms.
- Don’t share personal items: Avoid sharing items like nail clippers, socks, and shoes with others.
- Use antifungal products: Use antifungal powders or sprays on your feet and inside your shoes, especially if you are prone to fungal infections.
- Maintain good hygiene: Keep your feet clean and dry, change your socks daily, and avoid wearing the same shoes daily.
- Avoid walking barefoot: Wear shoes or sandals in public places such as communal showers, swimming pools, and locker rooms.
- Treat any skin or nail infections promptly: If you have a skin or nail infection, seek treatment promptly to prevent it from spreading to your nails.
Following these tips and maintaining good foot and nail hygiene can reduce your risk of developing a fungal nail infection.