Fungal nail infection occurs when a fungus grows in or underneath your fingernail or toenail. The fungus, of a group called dermatophytes, can live in the dead tissue of the nail, outer skin layer and hair, and occur more often in toenails than in fingernails.
WHO GETS NAIL FUNGUS?
Fungi live in warm, moist areas. Because of this, people who frequent swimming pools, shower rooms and gyms tend to contract these infections more often. They are usually seen in adults, occurring more commonly with age, and are rare in children. Others at higher risk of contracting nail fungus include those who:
- consistently wear closed footwear,
- have extremely moist skin,
- have immune system or circulation problems,
- suffer from psoriasis,
- have nail disease or deformed nails,
- have minor skin or nail injuries, or
- get manicures and pedicures with tools that have been used on other people.
WHAT ARE THE SYMPTOMS OF NAIL FUNGUS?
Nail fungus is usually identified because of changes in one or more nails, typically the toenails. It is often first noticed because of a white or yellow spot under the tip of a nail. Symptoms include a change in the shape of the nail, brittleness, crumbling of the edge of the nail, a loosening or lifting of the nail, loss of luster or shine, white or yellow streaks, or a thickening of the nail.
A fungal infection diagnosis can be made by a health care provider with an examination, or by viewing nail scrapings under a microscope. Samples may also be sent to a lab for processing.
HOW CAN NAIL FUNGUS BE TREATED?
Once a nail fungus begins, it can persist indefinitely if not treated and cause permanent damage to the nail. Over-the-counter remedies are not usually successful in treating fungal nail infections. Prescription oral anti-fungals are typically required, and need to be taken for two to three months in the case of toenail infections. Fingernail infections may clear up in a shorter time. Recently, laser treatments, such as Excel V, have been found to be able to eliminate the fungus as well, usually in about six treatments.
The fungus is only “cured” by the regrowth of a new, healthy nail. Because nails grow slowly, this might take up to a year. In severe cases, the infected nail may need to be removed.