Nail fungus is a fungal infection that has penetrated one or more of the nails in the feet or hands.
Fungi are microscopic organisms that thrive in dark, moist environments, which is why toenails are more susceptible to infection that fingernails. Toenail fungus (onychomycosis) can be notoriously difficult to cure, but a trained health care provider can help identify the fungi and provide a solution.
Often, fungus nail begins as a white or yellow spot under the edge of the nail and then spreads into the tissue causing discoloration.
Brittle, crumbly or ragged nails
Dull nail surface
Change in nail color to black, white, yellow or green
Crumbly or ragged edges around the nail bed
Separation of the nail from the nail bed
Painful fingertips or toetips
The fungus frequently infects the nails through infected water in swimming pools, showers, lakes, and other warm, wet environments. It invades the body through tiny cracks or cuts in or around the nails and reinfection is common.
Microscopic tests on the scrapings taken from the nail can determine the cause and type of fungus the patient suffers from and will determine the appropriate course of treatment.
There are several treatments available:
Topical medication – antifungal creams or lotions, usually used in conjunction with oral medication.
Oral Medication – Oral antifungal medicines taken for between 6 -12 weeks that can help eliminate the infection over several months.
Antifungal Nail Laquer – for mild or moderate infection.
Surgery – Removing the nail and treating the nail bed will allow a new nail to grow in that is free of the fungus.
Laser Therapy – Lasers and intense light treatments (photodynamic therapy) are very effective and capable of targeting the more than 200 fungi that can cause infection without damaging the nail or tissue.
If you have a weakened immune system or diabetes, a fungal nail infection could lead to more serious problems and should be treated by a doctor before the infection has a chance to spread.
Most nail fungus can be treated with conservative measures, but can take several months, or a year, to eliminate completely.