Nail fungus, or onychomycosis, is a fungal infection which affects toenails (as well as fingernails). Approximately half of the people experiencing nail issues are estimated to be afflicted with this vexatious disease. The fungus initially appears on the free edge of the nail, steadily making its way to the side toward the base. At times, fungal infections can spread to the skin while the opposite scenario is also a possibility. One of the most evident signs through which the ailment typically manifests itself include white, brown or yellow discoloration of one or more toenails, usually accompanied by the nails thickening or cracking.
Although itchiness, redness and discomfort are the main concerns for the majority of sufferers, severe cases may also bring about pain and irreversible toenail damage. As the fungus gradually grows, affected toenails may render walking with shoes on a quite painful experience that can even result in mobility issues. Sometimes, long-term infections may lead to all nail tissues being infected, thus causing the nail even to completely fall off. Since nail fungus doesn’t happen overnight, it is also very unlikely to disappear in an instant unless properly cured. That is why a variety of topical as well as oral anti-fungal treatments are currently available for toenail fungus sufferers, while prompt diagnosis can also contribute to combating the disease and protecting nails from temporary or permanent damage.
Factors that lead to toenail fungus
As the term indicates, a toenail fungus infection is triggered when fungus attacks through a small opening in the nail, which is a point extremely susceptible to the assault owing to bacteria and mold burgeoning there. Following this initial stage, the fungus expands, bringing about inflammation and thickening of the nail.
Despite nail fungus being a fairly ordinary disorder, certain groups of people appear to be more sensitive to it. With fungus thriving in moisture, it comes as no surprise that the individuals most likely to be troubled with toenail fungus are athletes, swimmers etc. due to them excessively sweating and habitually wearing shoes and socks or stepping barefoot around pools. Moreover, the aforementioned also explain why the ailment is more anticipated to harass toenails rather than fingernails; the former’s larger surface and the sealed environment socks and shoes provide account for fungus build-up. The situation is also exacerbated by the fact that feet receive far less attention in terms of washing compared to hands, and the poorer hygiene this is associated with adds to the likelihood of the infection springing up there. Finally, the customary practice of sharing nails clippers, though often downplayed by many individuals, can turn out to be a catastrophic habit in terms of getting toenail fungus.
Overall health status is also related to some individuals being more likely to pick up the infection. For example, people afflicted with diabetes, blood circulation issues, weakened immune system or human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) are usually more sensitive to nail fungus, while an existing injury of the nail is also an aggravating factor. Finally, even hereditary reasons can sometimes lead to people getting infected; if you happen to have toenail fungus family history, chances are you are more susceptible to developing the infection compared to other individuals with similar lifestyle and hygiene habits.
What are the signs of toenail fungus?
In order to come up with a very basic diagnosis of the infection, the first step involves checking your nails for alterations in their appearance. As mentioned earlier, crumbly or jagged edged nails as well as discoloration are major indications of things taking a turn for the worse on that front. Changes in the nail’s shape is another serious warning sign. Additionally, If the nail feels thicker than it normally does, if it doesn’t feel solid any more or if it seems to be losing its shine, then you should probably wait no more before seeking medical advice. Finally, crumbly and chalky white, yellow or brown debris piling up under the nail is another typical symptom signifying that it’s time to take some action.
Being able to identify the signs and symptoms of the infection is vital if you wish to keep it in check and ultimately treat it before it amounts to detrimental extends. After all, toenail fungus is much more than a cosmetic issue; it can critically compromise your everyday routine and lead to distressing situations. So, if some of the above mentioned symptoms seem to be persisting for more than two weeks, chances are you have been infected by toenail fungus and should consult a physician as soon as possible.