Many changes in fingernails or toenails may cause people to think they have a fungal infection of the nails. Fungal infection of the nail sometimes makes the condition sound contagious or related to poor hygiene. In fact, up to 10% of all adults in Western countries have fungal infection of the nails. This percentage increases to 20% of adults who are age 60 or older. Toenail fungus is much more common than fingernail fungus.
Fungal nail infection is caused by three main classes of organisms:
1. Fungi that infect hair, skin, and nails and feed on nail tissue (dermatophytes)
3. Non-dermatophyte molds
All three classes cause the very similar early and chronic symptoms or appearances, so the visual appearance of the infection may not reveal which class is responsible for the infection. Dermatophytes are by far the most common causes of fungal nail infection worldwide. Yeasts cause 8% of infections, and non-dermatophyte molds cause 2% of fungal nail infections.
Infected nails are usually thicker than normal and could be warped or oddly shaped. They can break easily. Nails with fungus might look yellow. Sometimes a white dot shows up on the nail and then gets bigger. Wen fungus builds up under your nail, it can loosen and even separate the nail from the bed. The fungus can also spread to the skin around your nail.
They way you treat toenail fungus depends on which fungus you have and how bad the infection is. Your doctor may try one thing or a combination:
- A topical cream that goes directly on the nail
- A topical nail lacquer
- An antifungal prescription pill
- Removing the damaged area of the nail or skin
In some cases, you might need to have the nail removed completely with surgery.