Fungal Nail Infection - Symptoms, Risk factors and Treatment

Fungi and bacteria surround us. Our immune system works against them. However, in certain conditions, they can attack us and infect too. The fungus can infect your skin and nails. Onychomycosis, also called tinea unguium, is an infection of the fingernails or toenails. It may begin as a white or yellow spot under the fingernail or toenail. Since the symptoms of a fungal nail infection develop gradually, it is hard to know about it readily. However, when it deepens, it causes the nail to discolor, thicken and crumble at the end. Fungal nail infection may infect more than one nail at a time. 


If the fungal nail infection does not bother you, you may not need any treatment. But if it causes your nail to thicken and become yellow with pain, you may need to get the treatment. However, it often returns after some time. Fungus when infected in the area in the middle of the toes and skin of your feet, the condition is known as athlete’s foot. 



Symptoms:


It may begin as a white or yellow spot under the fingernail or toenail. Since the symptoms of a fungal nail infection develop gradually, it is hard to know about it readily. However, when it deepens, it causes the nail to discolor, thicken and crumble at the end. Fungal nail infection may infect more than one nail at a time. It may show the following signs and symptoms.


  • Thickened nails

  • Whitish to yellow-brown discoloration of the nails

  • Brittle, crumbly, or ragged nails 

  • Nails that are distorted in shape

  • Dark-colored nail due to the build-up of debris under it 

  • Foul odor


Causes 


The main cause of fungal nail infection is a fungus. Mostly it is caused by a fungus called dermatophyte. However, it may also occur due to infection by yeast and molds. It can occur at any age. But it is most common in the elderly because as people age, the nails become dry and brittle, leading to their cracking, which makes it easy for the fungus to enter and grow there. Moreover, reduced blood flow to the area and weakened immune system may also play a role in making it susceptible to fungal infections. 



Risk factors 


The risk factor for fungal nail infections are:


  • Having a history of athlete's foot or repeated fungal nail infections 

  • Sweating heavily

  • Walking barefoot in damp and moist areas

  • Having psoriasis

  • Weakened immune system 

  • Reduced circulation to the feet and hands

  • Older age

  • Diabetes 

  • Skin injury and inflammation 

  • Long term corticosteroids use either topically or orally



Prevention 


To protect yourself from fungal nail infection, you must exercise the following tips as they may help. 


Keep the nails of your hands and toes clean. Wash them frequently. When you touch an infected nail, wash your hands readily as it may spread from one nail to another. 


Use a clean clipper and filer to cut or file nails. Disinfect it before use, and do not share it with anyone else. 


Wear breathable shoes. Also, wear sweat-absorbing socks or keep changing them. 


Conclusion 


Onychomycosis, also called tinea unguium, is an infection of the fingernails or toenails. It may begin as a white or yellow spot under the fingernail or toenail. Since the symptoms of a fungal nail infection develop gradually, it is hard to know about it readily. However, when it deepens, it causes the nail to discolor, thicken and crumble at the end. Fungal nail infection may infect more than one nail at a time.


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