While it’s not a fun conversation-starter at parties, toenail fungus must be talked about to properly understand. Nail fungus is a relatively common infection that can be caused by fungi invading underneath your toenail. Small cuts in the skin around your nail or the small opening between your nail and nail bed are both places where fungi can attack your nails. A fungal nail infection isn’t always necessarily painful, especially if you are in good health. However, more severe cases can be very uncomfortable and lead to infected nails separating from the nail bed. So keep an eye out for these toenail fungus symptoms.
If your toenails exhibit any of the following fungus symptoms, you may have a toenail infection:
- Thickened nails
- Lack of a “shine” or dull in color
- Distorted shape of the nail
- A darkened area visible underneath the nail
- Ragged or brittle nail texture
- Distorted color of the nail
- Unusual pain or discomfort in one toe
- A slightly foul odor
- Unusual, progressively growing spots
- The nail is beginning to separate from the toe
A nail infection occurs when a microscopic dermatophyte fungus inhabits the nail. Fungi do not need sunlight to survive and are often too small to see. Fungi thrive in dark, warm, and moist environments. It makes sense that your toes would be more susceptible for a fungus to thrive, rather than your fingernails considering all the time your toes spend in the warm presence of shoes and socks where there is no light. Showers, pools, gym locker rooms, saunas, and hot tubs are all places where you are most likely to pick up a toenail infection from a fungus.
There are multiple factors that can contribute to attaining a toenail infection.
- Being barefoot in warm, wet areas rife with bacteria often, like locker rooms or saunas
- With old age and decreased blood circulation to the feet and toes, there is always a greater risk of toenail infection
- Footwear with poor ventilation
- Having a minor cut or injury near your nails
In some cases, diabetes or certain prescription medications can cause a depressed immune system and make you more prone to picking up these infections.
There are several subsets of fungal infections. Endonyx onychomycosis or EO usually results in a milky white discoloration of the nail, however the nail does not thicken or separate from the nail bed. A Yeast infection can attack the toenail as well as the immediately surrounding areas around the nail. The nail bed becomes thick and hardens, inflammation sets in, and the affected toe takes on a more rounded shape. Yeast infections come with the danger of the nail separating from the nail. Distral lateral subungual onychomycosis or DLSO, causes the nail to become more opaque and cloudy before the nail bed begins to thicken. The nail takes on an eroded and brittle looking appearance with a great deal of discoloration.
If you wish to avoid a pesky toenail fungus it is recommended that whenever you shower, to thoroughly wash your fingers and feet to maintain a clean and bacteria-free surface. An easy one to remember is to always wear sandals or shower shoes at public locker rooms, saunas, and showers. It is also advised that you avoid sharing nail clippers, avoid wearing wet socks for long periods of time, and be attentive to small cuts on your toes and feet. By following these steps and looking out for toenail fungus symptoms, you are increasing your chances of avoiding a fungal infection.