Nail fungus is a fungal infection that develops under the body’s nails and is more common in toenails than in fingernails. This is because the feet are covered by shoes, which create the optimal environment for the growth of fungi.
The fungi that cause the development of nail fungus are called dermatophytes, which are microscopic organisms that thrive in warm, moist environments. Yeasts and mold are other, though less prominent, causes of nail fungus.
What are the symptoms?
Nail fungus symptoms are usually easy to detect and include:
Debris beneath the nail
Spots under the nail, usually white or yellow
Darkening of the nail
Foul-smelling toe, finger, or nail
Pain in the nail
Who gets it?
Nail fungus has no ethnic, geographic or gender preference. It is generally contracted by people who walk barefoot in moist or wet areas such as swimming pools, locker rooms, showers and other similar environments. An injury to the nail can exacerbate the problem by providing the fungus with an easier entry point to the nail bed.
People who wear shoes and whose feet perspire excessively can create the warm, dark and moist environment favored by the fungi. Others at risk for nail fungus include diabetics and those with circulatory problems.
Contrary to what logic may dictate, a topical application to the fungal area is not always the first recommended option. Instead, your dermatologist may opt for an oral antifungal medication with proven effectiveness, such as terbinafine or itraconazole.
Topical medications may be recommended; however, they are usually used in conjunction with an oral medication.
In cases of severe nail fungus, surgery may be in order. The chief indications for surgery include severe nail pain or nail fungus that has not responded to other treatment.