A fungal nail infection is also known as Onychomycosis. It’s caused by a dermatophyte fungi; the same fungus that causes athlete’s foot. This fungi can also infect the hard material (keratin) that makes up the nail. It develops slowly within the nail, causing it to become discoloured, thickened and distorted. These infections vary and can affect all or just part of the nail.
The most common sign of a fungal nail infection is the thickening and discolouration of the nail itself, usually turning it yellow, white, black or green. The good news is that these infection rarely cause any pain or discomfort. The nail itself may seem unattractive but in most cases a fungal nail infection will not cause any further complications.
Fungal nail infections are far more common in toenails. The most common causes of a fungal nail infection is a pre-existing fungal skin condition (e.g. Athlete’s foot) or damage to the nail or the surrounding skin. The fungi that cause the infection thrive in damp, warm conditions, so an infection is far more likely to occur after wearing trainers and sports shoes for prolonged periods. If you are susceptible to hot, sweaty feet then there is an increased chance of developing an infection.
Statistics show that fungal nail infections become more common with increasing age, however, sometimes there are no obvious cause to explain how an infection has occurred. Other factors that can potentially cause, or increase the risk of infection include:
- Psoriasis or diabetes
- Poor health or weakened immune system
- Using cosmetic nail polishes and varnishes
- Living in a warm, humid environment
- Constant nail biting