While nail fungus can be unsightly and uncomfortable, it’s fortunately also treatable. Be aware of these five common signs of nail fungus as well as prevention strategies that can keep you from being affected.
Nail Fungus Symptoms
Nail fungus most commonly affects toenails, but can also infect the fingernails. When a nail is affected, you’ll notice the following symptoms:
– Thickened nail, often with a distorted shape
– Discoloration ranging from white to light brown
– A ragged or crumbling appearance
– Dark debris build-up under the nail
– Unpleasant odor
Because fungus can spread from one nail to the next, it’s important to get treatment when you experience these symptoms.
Risk Factors for Nail Fungus
Nail fungus occurs when fungal organisms penetrate the nail and begin to grow underneath. This problem more commonly affects older adults since nails become brittle and are more likely to crack, creating an access point for the fungus. Other risk factors include heavy sweating, history of athlete’s foot, and minor skin conditions such as psoriasis or circulation problems such as those that often occur with diabetes. Walking barefoot in damp areas like showers or communal pools can also increase the risk of contracting a fungus.
Preventing Nail Fungus
If you’re susceptible to nail fungus, keep feet clean, dry, and moisturized. Trim nails straight across and disinfect clippers after use. Wear socks that absorb sweat and shoes that allow the feet to breathe. Wear footwear whenever you’re at public pools or locker rooms. Avoid nail salons that don’t sterilize their tools properly, as they can result in fungus in addition to other health hazards.
If you have nail fungus, make a doctor’s appointment. The dermatologist will recommend treatment with oral antifungal drugs, which typically begin to work within six to 12 weeks. Other options include medicated nail polish or cream. When infection is severe, the nail may need to be surgically removed so medication can be applied directly to the fungal growth. Left untreated, nail fungus can lead to more serious infections, cellulitis, circulation problems, and other complications.