What is Toenail Fungus?
Toenail fungus (onychomycosis) is an infection of your toenails. It’s caused by several common types of fungi that are everywhere in our environment. Nail fungus is an embarrassing chronic condition that impacts your quality of life and can lead to serious health problems for those with diabetes or immune disorders. Nail infection can start as a result of a family history of susceptibility, increasing age, poor health, nail trauma, warm or moist climates, exposure to infected nails in sports/ fitness and communal bathing areas, and tight shoes.
Fungal Nail Infections (Onychomycosis) are a very common complaint. Over 10 million people in the UK and 700 million people worldwide suffer from them. Onychomycosis affects men more than it does women and is more common as you get older. Most fungal nail infections cause merely cosmetic complaints with most sufferers reporting unsightly and embarrassing changes. The infected nail becomes thickened, discoloured (yellow) and often crumbly, it becomes impossible to cut down and takes on a unique odour. If left untreated, fungal nail infections can be very painful in shoes and can cause corns down the outside of the nail. In some cases, the infected nail can lift from the end of the toe, debris can collect under the it, altering the curvature of the nail.
What are the signs and symptoms of nail fungus?
- Yellow streaks in the skin under the nail, or nail bed, and on the underside of the nail
- Buildup of bits and pieces of skin and nail fragments under the nail
- Discolored and thickened nail that may separate from the skin under the nail
- Brittle, broken, and thickened nails
- White spots or streaks on the nail surface
- Soft and powdery nail surface, which appear as the infection worsens
- Damaged, crumbly, and brown or gray nail surface, with no separation of the nail from the underlying skin
Nail infection can cause permanent deformity of the nail, which can interfere with your being able to wear shoes, walking, sports, and other activities.
The causes of nail fungus infection
The causes of nail fungus infection are numerous, and a combination of the most common causes usually leads to infected nails, whether that is toenails or fingernails that have the fungal infection. Nails with damage to the nail plate and the seal at either end of the nail are most at risk from fungal nail infection. Also, a common skin infection known as athletes foot, usually present between the toes, then invades the nail and causes the fungus problem.
Foot fungus thrive upon the conditions in the shoe and 30% of people complaining of fungal toenail infection also suffer from athletes foot infection.
The hot sweaty environment found in the shoe are ideal for the fungi to grow and to spread on the toenails. Fungal infections are caused primarily by dermatophytes, candida and various yeasts and moulds found in these conditions.
Serious medical conditions such as poor circulation and diabetes can lead to worsening conditions and occasionally a secondary bacterial infection. Use of common towels, walking barefoot on contaminated surfaces and the use of non-sterile equipment for toenail cutting and filing can cause the nail fungus infection.
Athlete’s foot, is caused by a fungus that usually appears between the toes. This skin infection occurs on your feet due to the warm, humid and dark environment that provides the perfect conditions for the fungus.