Nail Fungus

Nail fungus begins as a discolored spot beneath a nail’s tip. It is typically white or yellow in color. A deeper infection leads to the hardening and discoloration of the entire nail, as well as brittleness along the edge.

Self-care or prescription medication may be required in the event of severe or otherwise uncomfortable cases. Milder forms of nail fungus will often disappear on its own. However, even with treatment, the more severe forms are prone to recurrence.

The same type of fungus that contributes to athlete's foot is responsible for this condition, which results from an infection under the nail, instead of between the toes.

What are Some Symptoms of Nail Fungus?

  • thickened and discolored nails
  • nails that appear ragged, uneven or brittle
  • nails which are distorted in shape

Affected nails will often separate from the nail bed at the end, due to the accumulation of debris underneath. The condition may be accompanied by a burning sensation, or a persisting tingle in the affected digits.

What You Need to Know About Fungus Affecting the Nails

Causes of Nail Fungus

A dermatophyte fungus is the usual culprit, but a variety of other organisms (including some common household molds) may either cause a nail infection, or contribute to an ongoing infection as a secondary issue. The most likely cause of fungi is that sunlight is not needed for it to survive.

Facts About Fungus

  • Shows preference for warm, moist environments. Public shower facilities are trouble spots.
  • May penetrate beneath the nail through existing, microscopic separation between the nail and the nail bed.
  • Shows preference for toenails over fingernails, partly due to long confinement to shoes and socks.
  • Reduced blood flow leads to reduced immune function in the toes.
  • Being older, male, or regularly active can result in increased risk, as can work performed in humid environments. Individuals who are otherwise at risk, particularly if there is a family history of fungal infections, should wear shoes and socks that allow their skin to breathe more efficiently.

A dermatology provider can go over the many contributing factors in greater detail, but other existing concerns (such as athlete's foot, a hangnail, or a skin tear) can increase the risk of contracting nail fungus, as can living with someone who has contracted nail fungus.

Common Complications

In addition to being painful, the condition can spread to other parts of the body, causing additional problems. If allowed to persist without treatment, it can result in permanent deformation of fingernails or toenails.

Diabetic patients have restricted blood flow to the feet in many cases already. This makes for an increased chance of serious complications in the event of any skin condition. Diabetic patients who suspect nail fungus should see a doctor, instead of attempting self-medication first.

Treatment: Physician vs. Self-Care

As with similar concerns, see a dermatologist if self-care for otherwise mild symptoms doesn't result in improvement within a few days. Diabetic patients who believe that they are developing nail fungus should see a doctor immediately.