Table of Contents
- Introduction to fungal nails (onychomycosis, tinea unguium)
- What other conditions can be mistaken for fungal nails?
- What causes fungal nails, and what are some of the risk factors?
- Are fungal nails contagious?
- What are the symptoms and signs of fungal nails?
- What tests do health-care professionals use to diagnose fungal nails?
- Who should be treated for fungal nails?
- What is the treatment for fungal nails?
- What is the treatment for fungal nails? (Continued)
- Are there home remedies for toenail fungus?
- Are oral medications for nail fungus toxic?
- What about the cost of oral medications for fungal nails?
- Is it possible to prevent fungal nails?
- What is the prognosis of fungal nails?
- Is it possible to prevent the recurrence of nail fungus?
- Tips for prevention of fungal nails
What are the symptoms and signs of fungal nails?
Although fungal nails are usually cosmetic concerns, some patients do experience pain and discomfort. These symptoms may be exacerbated by footwear, activity, and improper trimming of the nails.
There are many species of fungi that can affect nails. By far the most common, however, is called Trichophyton rubrum. This type of fungus has a tendency to infect the skin (known as a dermatophyte) and manifests in the following specific ways.
- Starts at the ends of the nails and raises the nail up: This is called "distal subungual onychomycosis." It is the most common type of fungal infection of the nails (90%). It is more common in the toes than the fingers, and the great toe is usually the first one to be affected. Risk factors include older age, swimming, athlete's foot, psoriasis, diabetes, family members with the infection, or a suppressed immune system. It usually starts as a discolored area at a corner of the big toe and slowly spreads toward the cuticle. Eventually, the toenails will become thickened and flaky. Sometimes, you can also see signs of athlete's foot in between the toes or skin peeling on the sole of the foot.
- Starts at the base of the nail and raises the nail up: It is called "proximal subungual onychomycosis." This is the least common type of fungal nail (3%). It is similar to the distal type, but it starts at the cuticle (base of the nail) and slowly spreads toward the nail tip. This type almost always occurs in people with a damaged immune system.
- Yeast onychomycosis: This type is caused by a yeast called Candida and not by the Trichophyton fungus named above. It is more common in fingernails and is a common cause of fungal fingernails. Patients may have associated paronychia (infection of the cuticle). Candida can cause yellow, brown, white, or thickened nails. Some people who have this infection also have yeast in their mouth or have a chronic paronychia (see above) that is also infected with yeast.