HEALTH CONDITIONS

A comprehensive list of today's common ailments and health conditions.

Fungal Nail Infections

By Shannon Pierce

Fungal Nail Infection

Fungal nail infections happen when a fingernail, a toenail, or the nail bed are attacked by a fungus. A fungus can attack your nails through the surrounding small cuts in your skin around your fingers or toes, or by an opening between your nail and your nail bed.

Symptoms

Usually, your nail may look thicker or a greenish yellowish color. At this point there are no symptoms or pain. Typically, this happens in just one nail, but occasionally more may be infected at one time.

As the infection worsens you may see white or yellow patches on your nail bed, where the nail has pulled away from the skin. The whole nail may pull away at some point, or become weak and break off. The skin surrounding the nail may appear swollen or scaly. At this point, walking can become painful if the fungus has affected a toenail.

Causes

There are various causes of fungal nail infections. It can start from a skin infection that creeps into the nail bed, such as athlete’s foot. Fungus can be spread from toes or nails if one or the other becomes infected.

Damaged nails, or injured nails are at an increased risk of becoming infected. Also, frequent hand washing, such as if you are a hairdresser, can damage the layer of protection in the nail bed allowing water and fungi to enter.

Often, since fungi are so common, they can appear and infect someone for no apparent reason.

Those at an increased risk of developing infection include diabetics, those with psoriasis, poor circulation, weak immune systems, those with AIDS, those being treated with chemotherapy, those who live in hot or humid areas, those who smoke.

Diagnosis

Your doctor will ask you about any previous fungal infections or nail damage. They will examine your hands and feet or take small samples of the infected area. Popular tests include KOH, potassium hydroxide preparation, which determines if the nail or the skin is causing fungi. A fungal culture is done to show what type of fungus you may be dealing with.

Treatment

Some people do not seek treatment if symptoms remain non-existent or mild, or because treatment does not always cure infection or restore the nail to perfect condition. Common medications include antifungal tablets or antifungal nail paint. Nail removal may also be an option. Each case depends on the type of fungus infecting the nail and the patient’s medical background.


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