Fungal nail infections are common infections of the feet and toenails that can cause the nail to become discolored, thick, and more likely to crack and break.
Symptoms usually appear after a fungal infection on the skin of the feet. Fungal nails may occur in the nails first, without infections of the skin.T hey are very common in toenails but can also occur in fingernails. You can develop toenail fungal infections on your feet at any age, but your risks increase as you grow older and your nails dry out and become brittle, leaving them vulnerable to infection.
Causes of toenail fungus
Fungal nail infections can be caused by many different types of fungi (yeasts or molds) that live in the environment. Small cracks in your nail or the surrounding skin can allow these germs to enter your nail and cause the infection.
Anyone can get a fungal nail infection. Some people may be more likely than others to get a fungal nail infection, including people who have any of these conditions:
- Blood circulation problems or vascular disease
- Peripheral neuropathies
- Minor skin or nail injuries
- Deformed nail or nail disease
- Moist skin for a long time
- A weakened immune system
- Family history
- Athlete’s foot
- Wear footwear that does not allow air to reach your feet
Your feet are also more likely to be exposed to fungal infections if you spend time at swimming pools, walk barefoot often in locker rooms or wear the same pair of damp, sweaty sneakers all the time.
What are the symptoms of toenail fungus?
Having nail fungus is usually painless. At least, it’s painless in the beginning. However, if you put off getting treatment, the fungus can grow. When the fungus infection worsens on toenails, the toenails can become painful or ingorwn.
If you get nail fungus, you’re likely to see one or more of the following changes to your nails:
- Nails thicken and turn white, yellow, brown, or another color. At first, you may just see a spot of discoloration at the tip of your nail. Without treatment, this discoloration may spread, covering more of the nail.
- Loss of luster and shine on the nail surface
- Change in nail shape
- Debris build-up under the nail.
- A nail begins to lift up, so it’s no longer firmly attached to the finger or toe.
- A nail turns white, and the surface of the nail may feel soft, dry, and powdery. The nail also thins, so you may be able to scrape off the nail.
- A nail becomes brittle and splits or crumbles.
How is toenail fungus diagnosed and treated?
Your doctor may diagnose a fungal nail infection by looking at the affected nail and asking questions about your symptoms. He or she may also take a nail clipping to send to a laboratory for a fungal evaluation.
Other conditions, such as psoriasis, can mimic a fungal infection of the nail. Microorganisms such as yeast and bacteria also can infect nails. Knowing the cause of your infection helps determine the best course of treatment.
Fungal nail infections can be difficult to cure, and they typically don’t go away without antifungal treatment. Several treatment options are available depending on the cause and severity of your infection. These might include oral antifungal medications, topical medications, or a combination of therapies. The most effective treatment for a fungal nail infection is usually prescription oral antifungal medication. In severe cases, a doctor might remove the nail completely. It can take several months to a year for the infection to go away with aggressive treatment.
Augusta Foot & Ankle, PC also uses innovative laser treatments like Cutera Genesis Plus. This laser therapy targets the pigment in the fungus and exposes it to pulsed light energy without causing damage to your surrounding skin. It’s the only FDA-cleared laser for the treatment of toenail fungus.
If you think you have a nail fungus, call Augusta Foot & Ankle to schedule an appointment today.