Fungal nail infections are a common problem that most commonly appear on toenails. The infection is caused by different types of fungi, such as candida, but it is most often caused by the same type of fungus that also causes athlete’s foot, called dermatophyte fungi. Fungal nail infections occur when spores of a fungus make their way between your toenail and the skin underneath (the nail-bed), and feed off the skin or the keratin in the nail. A fungal nail infection does not usually come with any physical symptoms, such as the common itching symptom found with athlete’s foot, but in some cases it can cause pain and discomfort if it isn’t treated. If a fungal nail infection is left untreated, the nail-bed can eventually be completely destroyed. If you catch a fungal nail infection, you might notice that your nails will seem thicker, that they will change color slightly, or that they will start to separate themselves from the nail bed.
Spotting a Fungal Nail Infection
Here are some obvious signs of a fungal nail infection that you can look out for:
- Dull nails and loss of natural shine
- Discoloration around the edge of the nail
- White or yellowish spots in the middle of the nail
- Thickening of the nail or brittle nails
- Nail crumbling and splitting, and even separating from the skin
- Discomfort while wearing shoes, walking, or standing for long periods of time
It’s important to act quickly if you notice any of these symptoms, as an infection becomes harder to treat over time, and can last up to several years for severe cases.
How to treat a Fungal Nail Infection
To treat an infection, an antifungal medication may be required, but for mild cases it can be treated with a specialty fungal nail treatment and patience.
How to Reduce the Risk of a Fungal Nail Infection
Although it’s impossible to avoid infections completely, there are some things you can do to reduce the risk, such as avoiding humid or damp conditions, like your shoes. In areas where people who have had a fungal infection may have been – such as communal showers, or swimming pools – wear foot protection like flip-flops or shower shoes.
It’s also important to take note of any damage to the nail, as this can offer opportunity for the fungus to get into and under the nail, where it feeds off of the keratin in the nails. It is also recommended that you disinfect your shoes regularly by using a shoe spray.
Moreover, if you notice any symptoms of athlete’s foot, then treat this appropriately as soon as you can, as this fungus can easily spread to your nails, becoming a fungal nail infection.