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Nail Fungus - Understanding the Causes and Symptoms

Written and reviewed by
Dermatology Backed Expert Skin & Hair Care Solution
Dermatologist, Mumbai  •  11 years experience
Nail Fungus - Understanding the Causes and Symptoms

Nail fungus is a fungal infection that develops under the tip of the toenail or the fingernail. It has a whitish or yellowish appearance and as the condition progresses, it causes the affected area of the nail to thicken, discolor and crumble at the edges. Usually this condition does not require any treatment, but if it turns severe, then you may require treatment to limit it from spreading.

The symptoms of this disorder are:
1. The affected nail thickens
2. There can be distortion in the shape of the nail
3. The nail can become crumbly and ragged
4. Discolored nails that lose its natural shine
5. Accumulation of debris on the nail
The infected nail may also be separated from the nail bed, causing pain and a foul odor.

Causes
The condition is usually caused by the dermatophyte fungus. In some cases, molds and yeasts can also cause fungal infections. Fungi are microscopic organisms that have certain characteristics such as:
1. They can cause complications if your nails are often exposed to moist and warm conditions
2. They usually thrive in moist and warm conditions such as showers and swimming pools

3. These fungi get into the skin through small cuts on your skin

The fungus usually affects toenails because, when you wear shoes, a warm and moist environment is created which is the perfect breeding spot for the fungus. The factors that can increase your chances of getting affected by this fungal infection are

1. Heavy perspiration
2. Athlete’s foot (a condition which is characterized by rashes between the toenails)
3. Older people are affected more as blood circulation is reduced
4. Wearing socks for extended periods of time creates warm and a humid condition for the fungi to grow
5. Certain medical conditions such as diabetes

Treatments
There are certain medications that are used to treat fungal infections:

  1. Oral anti fungal drugs: These medications help in getting rid of fungal infections.
  2. Nail creams: There are certain anti fungal nail creams available that you can apply on your nails to get rid of this condition. If you wish to discuss about any specific problem, you can consult a Dermatologist.
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