What Does Toenail Fungus Look Like?
Toenail fungus is a common nail infection that typically affects the toenails. However, fingernails can become infected too. The infection is caused by a variety of fungi, yeasts, and molds, but the probable culprit in most cases is fungi called dermatophytes. Also known as ringworm, this group of fungi is responsible for causing skin infections on other parts of the body including the groin (jock itch), the scalp (tinea capitis), and the foot (athlete’s foot).
Unlike other fungal infections, toenail fungus does not onset suddenly but rather gradually over time. It is important to recognize the symptoms of fungal infection of the toenails so you can treat it as soon as possible. The longer you have the infection the more difficult it is to get rid of it and the greater the risk it will spread to other nails.
Early signs of infection: In its early stages, all or part of the toenail will darken and begin to thicken. During this time it looks like other types of toenail diseases, which is why it is best to have the diagnosis confirmed by a healthcare provider.
Advanced stages of infection: Usually the entire nail will be discolored (turning black, yellow, or green), brittle, and crumbly. It will also be thick and deformed; sometimes so much that the nail lifts off the nail bed. The skin under and around the infection may become inflamed and painful.
In general, though, you may have a fungal infection if your fingernails or toenails present the following symptoms:
- Mild discoloration of the nail that worsens over time; may turn yellow, black, green, or various shades of brown
- Thickened nails; may lift off the nail bed and interfere with walking or standing
- Brittle, ragged, or crumbly nails
- Severe or advanced infections may cause nail disfigurement
- Pain in the toe
- Lose of luster or shine
Nail fungal infections can cause psychosocial problems for men, women, and children alike, especially if the infection occurs on the fingernails.
Let’s face it. It’s embarrassing to have fingernail and toenail discoloration and deformation. Additionally, toenail fungus infections are contagious and people are right to be wary of shaking hands, touching infected feet, or sharing personal items since a common cause of nail fungus is contact with an infected person.
Getting Rid of Toenail Fungus
For most healthy people, toenail fungus doesn’t cause any health complications. You should treat it as soon as possible anyway because it can permanently damage the nail. If you have other health problems like diabetes or a suppressed immune system, an infection of this kind can lead to others. For example, diabetics are at risk of getting cellulitis which is a bacterial infection. Infection of the bone, called osteomyelitis, can also occur albeit rarely.
There are a couple of ways to treat toenail infections. The most popular way is to use oral or topical medications like Funginix. Terbinafine and itraconazole are two common oral medications prescribed. While effective in many cases, these medications can cause side effects such as a mild rash, headache, upset stomach, nausea, itching, and diarrhea. Liver damage can also occur, particularly if the medication is used over a long period of time.
Depending on how severe the infection is, some podiatrists may recommend laser surgery. In this procedure, a Noveon-type laser is used to kill the organisms causing the infection. This is a relatively new procedure, so its efficacy is still under debate. While there are no known side effects, you must wait for the nail to grow out to see if it worked. Additionally, the procedure is expensive and not covered under most insurance plans.
If you just want to clear up the infection fast without emptying your bank account or risking unpleasant side effects, there are a number of homeopathic remedies you can use. We searched through tons of over-the-counter products and found the relatively few that actually helped people eliminate their toenail infections and get clear nails.