Fungal Nail Infections
Nail fungal infection, also known as onychomycosis, is a common condition among people of all ages. These infections are caused by certain bacteria that may be due to genetics, aging, trauma or poor foot care. They may also be related to diabetes. Fungal infections occur under the toenails as a result of exposure to a warm, moist environment like sweaty shoes or shower floors. Athlete’s foot and other fungal infections of the skin may spread to the toenails as well, causing them to change color, thicken or crumble.
Toenail infections affect an estimated 40 million people in the U.S. Risk factors for contracting fungal infections include keeping the feet wet for long periods of time, walking barefoot in wet public places such as pools or showers, wearing closed shoes that do not allow the feet to “breathe” and having sweaty feet.
Symptoms of a toenail fungus infection vary depending on the type of infection, but are usually mild. These fungal infections often begin as a yellow or white spot under the nail, and develop into thickened, brittle and distorted nails that sometimes split. They may also turn your nails a darker color as a result of the debris that builds up.
Nail fungal infections should be treated immediately as they may cause permanent damage and are likely to recur. Treatment options include oral anti-fungal medications, anti-fungal nail polish or other topical medications. Surgery is also performed in severe cases to remove the entire nail or the infected portion.
Patients can reduce the risk of fungal nail infections by wearing clean shoes and socks that fit well and by attending to any nail injuries as soon as possible. Fungus is present nearly everywhere and may be difficult to avoid, but with proper foot care, patients can benefit from a reduced risk of infection.