Nail fungus is a relatively common condition that affects many people. In this guide, we’re going to take a closer look at nail fungus and describe what it is, what the symptoms are, and how to deal with the problem if you suffer it.
Let’s take a closer look at everything you need to know about nail fungus.
What is nail fungus?
Nail fungus is a condition also known as onychomycosis and tinea unguium. It displays as whitish or yellowish spots that you can see forming beneath your fingernails and toenails.
A case of nail fungus; image source: wikimedia.org
As the condition starts to spread, the fungus beneath your nails can cause them to do some different things, including crumbling at the edges, thickening, and discoloration. The condition can affect one nail or several, but most sufferers of nail fungus find they won’t develop symptoms on all of their nails.
What are the symptoms?
As mentioned above, thickening, crumbling and discoloration are all indicators of nail fungus. But there are other things to look out for, too. Are your nails getting brittle, or ragged? Are they changing shape at all, and beginning to look slightly distorted? Are your nails starting to look dull, and losing their shine?
Nail fungus also causes debris to build up beneath the nail, which can add to the darkening impact.
Why do you get it?
The vast majority of nail fungus cases are due to a fungus – known as dermatophyte, molds, or yeast buildups. The fungus can take hold if you spend a lot of time warm and moist conditions. For example, you might pick up fungus in swimming pools or showers and baths, and they enter your body through tiny, almost microscopic gaps in your nails.
If the nail fungus is caused by yeast, it might be because you are suffering from a digestive problem – an allergy to bread, for example.
Which people are more at risk?
Nail fungus arises in specific members of the public more than others. Older people, for example, are more likely to develop nail fungus because over the years, their blood flow starts to slow and they are more exposed to fungi. Also, older people’s nails start to grow slower than when they were younger.
Males are more likely to pick up nail fungus problems than women, and there is a genetic predisposition to think about, too – if your parents have the problem, you might experience it at some point. Working in a warm and humid environment – bar work, for example – can also increase your chances of picking up a nail fungus problem.
What should you do?
Most cases of nail fungus are mild, so if the condition isn’t causing you problems, it may well clear up on its own. There are self-help care steps to take if you have nail fungus, too, with creams, coatings and oral medicines. However, in certain cases, the fungus can be painful, and it might be necessary to see a doctor to get some treatment suggestions.
Be aware that nail fungus can become a major issue if left alone for too long, which we will go into depth on right now. You should also bear in mind that it can take some time to start seeing results.
Typically, you should be taking nail fungus treatment for anything between six to twelve weeks to ensure that the fungus has cleared completely. In rare cases, some people may need to endure surgical procedures such as nail removal or laser therapy.
What are the complications?
In rare cases, nail fungus can develop into a more severe condition. Pain can be a huge factor, of course, and if you have diabetes or another immunosuppressive condition, it can spread quite quickly to other nails on both your feet and hands. It’s also important to realize that you could be at risk of bacterial infection when you have nail fungus – so always see your doctor if you are concerned.
How to avoid it?
Obviously, making sure you don’t spend too much time in moist and warm conditions is a good way to stop catching a nail fungus. You are also more at risk if you live with someone who has it, as they can pass it on to you. Be wary when you get minor injuries in your nails or skin, too, as the fungus can get into your nails through the gaps.
Athlete’s foot is another issue, and any condition that involves you having a weakened immune system – such as diabetes or Down Syndrome in children – can also result in nail fungus.