How to Identify Nail Fungus?
Signs of fungal nail infection
Fungal nail infections (onychomycosis) are estimated to account for up to 50% of all nail problems, making it a very common concern. The numbers are thought to be higher for the elderly.
These are some typical signs that you might have a fungal nail infection:
- Discoloured toenails (yellow, white or brown discolouration)
- Brittle toenails
- Crumbling toenails
- Thick toenails
Possible complications of nail fungus
As the infection progresses, the nail could become painful and thicker. Nail fungus can also spread to other nails and the surrounding skin, causing Athlete’s foot. Nail fungus treatment can be difficult, so early identification is critical in your recovery process.
These are some typical signs that your fungal nail infection is becoming more severe:
- Further toenail discoloration from yellow to a darker color
- Further brittleness and crumbling
- Possible pain under toenail
- Toenail thickening
- Spreading of the infection to other nails
- Spreading of the infection to the surrounding skin
iDo you suspect you have nail fungus?
If you suspect that you have a fungal nail infection, we encourage you to visit a doctor for a proper diagnosis. To fight nail fungus effectively, it’s better to start treatment sooner. See your doctor to find out which treatment option is appropriate for you.
Other Nail Conditions
Physical trauma is one of the most common causes of nail injury. The nail is vulnerable to many physical injuries as it often comes into contact with objects. Bruising is common and blood may pool quite easily after injury, causing the nail to turn dark blue or black. Physical nail trauma may, in some cases, provide an entry point for a fungal nail infection.
Psoriasis is known for its white and pink scaly patches on the skin, as it is the most common symptom of psoriasis. Nail involvement is also very common in psoriasis. One of the signs of nail psoriasis is the pitting of the nails. Fungal nail infections can also co-exist with nail psoriasis.
Athlete’s foot is a common fungal infection of the feet by the same types of fungi that infect the nails: Trichophyton rubrum and Tricyphyton mentagraphyte. Anyone can get athlete`s foot, but it is more common in teenagers and adult men. Athlete`s foot occurs when fungus is allowed to grow and incubate in moist conditions like the insole of a shoe.
Causes and Prevention
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.
Are some people more susceptible to fungal nail infections?
Although everyone is potentially susceptible, there are several risk factors that make a person more likely to get infected. Many factors are lifestyle-related and having an active lifestyle can often expose a person to situations where contact with fungus is more likely. There are also genetic and health factors that can increase the risk of infection for:
- People 55 years or older
- People with diminished blood circulation
- People with previous or existing injury or infection of the nail
- People with a weakened immune system (HIV/AIDS, diabetes)
iIs nail fungus contagious?
Fungal nail infections are in fact contagious, but not in any way that should cause panic. Fungal infections commonly spread from the nail to the skin and vice versa. Many fungi called “dermatophytes” feed on keratin, the basic material of skin and hair, to grow and spread.
Accidental transmission from person to person is quite uncommon, unless there is constant intimate contact. The fungi that can cause nail fungus infections are very commonplace and are very difficult to avoid completely. Generally, in healthy individuals, the immune system will defend the body from infection and repel these fungi, even if they come into contact with the skin or the nail.
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 talk, 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.
Fungal nail infections can be transmitted from person to person in the home and high-risk areas, such as locker rooms and public pools. By treating your nail fungus and by limiting exposure by not going barefoot, you can avoid transmitting the infection to others.