Nail fungus is an infection that could occur in either the toenails or
fingernails. Technically it is referred to as tinea unguium or
These infections are caused by a fungus which belongs to the group
called dermatophytes(as for example Trichophyton rubrum and
Trichophyton interdigitale). Our nails are tough in structure.
Nevertheless these funguses have the capacity to eat up the keratin in
the skin of the nail bed and in the nails. Thats how the infection
continues. Apart from fungus, yeasts (candida albicans) and moulds can
also cause nail fungus. Nail fungus appears more in toenails than in
Who are susceptible to nail fungus?
Some people are more likely to get nail fungus than others,
especially people suffering from diabetes. This is because high ***
sugar could cause a weakened immune response to infections like nail
The same is the case of AIDS patients who also have with markedly
sluggish immune responses.
People with athletes foot should get it treated appropriately.
Otherwise the toenails could get infected as well.
Another interesting point is men are more likely to get toenail
fungus than women possibly due to a genetic factor.
Appearance of the nail fungus
Initially the fungus infection will appear either as a white or yellow
spot just beneath the tip of either the fingernail or toenail. When
the fungus eats up the nail keratin and penetrates the nail further,
the nails develop some characteristics. These characteristics could be
thickening of the nails with the edges tending to crumble, become
brittle and ragged. Discoloration of the nails could be seen as well.
There could be distortion in the shape of the nail with the nails
tending to become lusterless and dull. The infected portion of the
nail could detach itself from the nail bed and pain could radiate to
the toes or fingertips as the case may be.
Sometimes it could give out a slightly foul odor.
When does nail fungus generally appear?
Nail fungus could occur when your toenails and or fingernails are
exposed to warm and moist conditions on an extended basis. For
example, wearing of shoes provides warm, moist and dark conditions
that are conducive for growth of fungi. That apart, wearing a shoe for
long periods in these conditions could lessen *** circulation to the
toes making it difficult for the bodys natural immune system to work
Differentiate nail fungus from other nail disorders
Nail fungus is the commonest disease of the nail. But it should not be
confused with other nail disorders.
For example, it should not be confused with athletes foot.
Athletes foot occurs in the skin of the foot and sometimes it is
possible that nail fungus and athletes foot could occur concurrently.
Nail fungus should not be mistaken for bacterial infections caused
by Pseudomonas aeruginosa which could make the nail black or green in
color. Only a doctor can confirm whether you indeed have nail fungus
In the elderly the nail could thicken and scale beneath the nail.
This is not caused due to fungus but is due to peripheral vascular
Nail fungus should not be confused with psoriasis of the nail and
other conditions like onycholysis wherein the nail plate separates
from the underlying structure.
Why is it difficult to treat nail fungus?
The reason why nail fungus is difficult to treat is because it could
reoccur despite being rid of the problem earlier. Another reason is it
takes up to a year for a new toe nail to grow. This makes both
treatment and cure difficult.
Why are fungal infections such as nail fungus common?
Dermatophytes or the organisms that cause nail fungus infections are
abundantly found in the floor of commercial areas as for example
public bathing places like by the side of swimming pool etc. Research
studies have shown that there could be about 100 fungal fragments/m2
plus minute pieces of keratin in these areas. In those areas with
staircases the figure could be greater than 700 fungal fragments/m2 of
floor space. Any one of these fragments could cause infection. This
probably explains why there are more fungal infections like nail