Fungal infections of the nails are surprisingly easy to get. There are many things in our everyday lives that can lead to your nails getting infected. Just by walking barefoot in an area that has been exposed to a fungal infection, like on a public pool deck in the summer, could cause you to contract a fungal infection. Everyone can be susceptible to nail fungus, but this chance increases as you age (1). Old age causes dry, cracked skin and slower nail growth rates, both of which can cause the chance of an infection to grow.
Why Does Toenail Fungus Occur?
While we stated that your chances of fungal infections grow with age, there are many other reasons fungus will attach and infect our nails (2).
Those factors include:
- Climate – Hotter, more humid climates can cause your feet to stay wet and sweaty, making them the optimal place for fungus to grow.
- Health – There are many health issues, like athlete’s foot, diabetes, and cancer that heighten your chance of getting an infection.
- Lifestyle – Jobs or hobbies that keep your hands and feet wet and sweaty provide fungus the perfect place to grow. Smoking can also increase your risk.
Take Home Note:
Nail fungus can happen to anyone, but it is more common with certain risk factors. Some of these factors we can easily change, like limiting the time our hands and feet are wet, or to stop smoking. Others may be more difficult to change, like the climate in which we live in.
What Symptoms Should You Watch Out For?
There are many symptoms of toenail fungal infections, both visual and other.
One of the trademark signs of a toenail fungal infection is a yellowish hue to your nail (3). Other common visual signs include causing your nail to become scaly or warped and misshapen. The fungus can also cause a white dot on the nail that will grow larger as the infection spreads. The fungus can build up underneath the nail which will eventually lift the actual nail away from the nailbed. In extreme cases, the fungus can cause total loss of the nail.
Some signs, while not visually apparent, also can show the possibility of fungus growing in your nail. Pain often accompanies this kind of infection. Also, your nail may become thicker or more brittle than normal. Fungal infections of the nail may also result in a foul odor (4).
Take Home Note:
There are both visual and physical signs to watch for when checking for fungal infections of the nail. Any of the abovementioned symptoms can be tell-tale signs of an infection, and a doctor should be consulted to confirm the diagnosis.
Can It Be Mistaken For Another Nail Problem?
While many of the visual signs of fungal infections are the first you will notice, it is important to consult with a doctor to confirm that diagnosis. There are many health problems that can affect your nails, and some of them may even have similar visual symptoms of a fungus (5). The most common health concerns include:
- Lines and Ridges – These are actually considered normal and may occur on any healthy nail.
- Senile Nails – In old age, nails naturally become more brittle and misshapen.
- White or Yellow Nails – This discoloration can happen when the nail separates from the nailbed. The color is actually just the pocket of air underneath the nail.
- Red or Black Nails – This usually means there is blood trapped underneath the nail. The blood could have been caused from a variety of reasons.
- Green Nails – When bacteria gets trapped under the nail, it can cause a greenish colored infection.
- Pitted Nails – Common skin problems, like psoriasis, can also have visual effects on nails.
- Swelling and Redness of the Cuticle – This bacterial infection has a quick onset and can cause pain at the bottom of the nail.
- Chronic Nail Trauma – Many sports, like kicking a ball, can repeatedly cause harm to your nails.
Take Home Note:
While some of the visual signs of fungal infections tend to be considered “giveaways”, there are many other problems that could be affecting your nails. To be sure that you need to treat for fungus, it is best to first consult with your doctor.
Easy Prevention Techniques
Before your nails become infected, there are many ways in which you can try to prevent a fungus from setting in (6). Some of these tips are:
- Cutting and cleaning your nails regularly
- Wearing synthetic socks
- Regular use of antifungal powders or sprays
- Stop biting your nails
- Wear shoes or sandals when in public spaces, like pools
- Going to reputable nail salons
- Polish your nails less often
- Wash your hands
- Do not share shoes
Take Home Note:
Prevention is always key to stop any kind of infection. By practicing good nail health, it is easy to stop a fungal infection before it starts.
How To Treat Fungal Infections?
While a doctor may prescribe a topical or oral antifungal medication, there are also toenail fungus home remedies you can try (7). Home remedies can include:
Apple Cider Vinegar
- Antimicrobial properties kill infection
- Acidity prevents infection from spreading
- Probiotics produce lactic acid
- Lactic acid kills fungi
- Powerful antifungal agent
- Antibacterial properties help with recovery
Tea Tree Oil
- Natural antifungal kills infection
- Antiseptic prevents spreading of infections
- Medium-chain fatty acids
- Natural fungicides kill fungi
- Tannins kill fungus
- Antibiotic and astringent properties help relieve symptoms
- Antifungal properties kill infection
- Antimicrobial properties help prevent future infections
- Antifungal and antimicrobial agents
- Boost immune system for better recovery
- Natural antiseptic, antifungal, and antibiotic
- Speed up recovery and aids in prevention
- Antifungal properties
- Available in juice or supplement form
Take Home Note:
While doctors may prescribe medication, there are many natural home remedies you can try to help treat and prevent future fungal infections. It is important, in conjunction with these natural treatments, to also practice good hygiene and keep your hands and feet clean and dry.
Nail Fungus – The Bottom Line
Overall, nail fungus can be caused by many different things and can affect people of all ages. If you think you have a fungal infection, it is best to check with your doctor for the correct diagnosis, as fungus can be mistaken for other common nail problems. If your diagnosis is confirmed, there are many ways to treat the infection naturally at home, as well as plenty of ways to prevent a future infection.