Nail Fungus: Treatments & Causes

By Med-Fit UK Content Team  .  Last Updated Thursday, 23rd May 2024

What is Nail Fungus?

Nail fungus, medically known as onychomycosis (on-ih-koh-my-KOH-sis), is a prevalent nail infection that often starts as a white or yellow-brown spot beneath the tip of a fingernail or toenail. 

As the fungal infection progresses, the nail can undergo discoloration, thickening, and crumbling at the edges. This condition, also referred to as tinea unguium, has the potential to impact multiple nails.


While some cases of nail fungus might be mild and not bothersome, prompting the avoidance of treatment, severe instances with discomfort and thickened nails warrant attention. Self-care measures and medications can provide relief in such situations. However, it's important to note that even if treatment appears successful, recurrence of nail fungus is common.


Fungal nail infections, which can be both unpleasant and occasionally painful, are more manageable if addressed promptly. Early intervention can facilitate the eradication of the underlying infection causing this issue. Apart from affecting nails, fungal infections can extend to the areas between toes and the skin of the feet, known as athlete's foot or tinea pedis. These infections arise due to the proliferation of fungal spores infiltrating the region beneath the toenail and skin. These spores thrive by feeding on the skin or the keratin present in the nail.

The same type of fungi responsible for causing athlete's foot, a prevalent skin condition primarily occurring between the toes, can also contribute to the spread of infection to the nails.


In rarer cases, fungal nail infections may stem from other types of fungi, typically yeasts. These infections tend to target nails that are already compromised or damaged, as they offer a more accessible entry point for the invading fungi. There are a number of Nail fungus treatments available and this is mentioned later in blog.


What does Nail Fungus look like?

 

Are you wondering about the telltale signs of toenail fungus? Understanding these symptoms is essential for effective treatment. Here's an overview of how toenail fungus can manifest visually:


  • Change in Nail Color: Keep an eye out for a shift in your toenail's color, which might turn shades of yellow, brown, or even white.
  • Thickened and Distorted Appearance: If your toenail starts appearing unusually thickened or takes on a misshapen form, it could be indicative of a fungal infection.
  • Chalkiness or Cloudiness: Observe your toenail closely for chalky or cloudy patches that might emerge on its surface.
  • Nail Separation: A clear indication of toenail fungus is the separation of your toenail from the underlying nail bed.
  • Frequent Breaks and Cracks: Noticeable breaks and cracks appearing in one or more areas of your toenail could be a result of fungal infection.

Toenail fungus can manifest in various ways, altering the visual characteristics of your toenails. Recognizing these visual cues is vital in addressing the issue before it progresses further.

What causes Nail Fungus?

A nail fungal infection typically begins as a white or yellow streak at the edge of your nail, just beneath the tip. Gradually, this streak extends down the side of your nail towards its base. As the infection progresses, your nail becomes discolored, thickened, and distorted, sometimes growing so thick that it becomes painful when pressed against footwear.