Understanding Nail Fungus

Understanding Nail Fungus


Nail fungus is a common issue with either the fingernails or toenails becoming yellowish, brittle and can affect several nails at once. As the fungus progresses, the nails become more discolored, thicken and begin to crumble and deteriorate. Treatments vary based on severity but typically require prescribed medication but in mild cases can also be treated with over-the-counter products or at home remedies.

For clarification, nail fungus, also known as onychomycosis affects the nails itself while athlete’s foot, also known as tineapedis, infects the areas between your toes.


Symptoms are very easy to spot, especially if you are constantly taking care of your feet and hands but many of the initial signs begin with distortion of the nails shape or discoloration. You may also see the following:

  • Thickening of the nails
  • White, brown or yellow discoloration
  • Brittle or crumbling around the edges
  • Unusual smell

Although nail fungus can occur in both fingernails and toenails, it is much more common in the toes many times due to moisture build up.

Do You Need To See A Doctor?

As mentioned, home remedies and over-the-counter products can help cure toe fungus but based on the severity, you may need to see your physician. Although anyone can get a fungal nail infection, some people are more likely than others, especially older adults with the following conditions:

  • Diabetes
  • Blood circulation problems
  • Athlete’s foot
  • An immune disease or disorder
  • Nail injuries

Because older adults may have underlying health issues, and as you age most nails become increasingly brittle and dry, cracks in the nails can occur allowing the fungi to enter and spread. Although the infection can spread from nail to nail, it is extremely uncommon to pass the infection along to someone else.

Factors That Can Increase Your Chances Of An Infection

As mentioned, older people tend to have reduced blood flow and more chances of coming in contact with the fungi. Elderly people also tend to have slower growing nails allowing the infection to slowly grow underneath the nail without having the chance to be clipped for weeks to months.

Nail Fungus Complications

In most cases, when caught in the beginning, mild cases can be treated at home and should not cause pain or permanent damage. Severe cases, on the other hand, can be extremely painful and could lead to serious infections that go beyond your feet, especially if you have a weak immune system due to diabetes, daily prescribed medication or other conditions.

Reduced blood circulation to your feet can result in reduced nerve supply and creates additional risks beyond fungi such as bacterial skin infections (cellulitis). Any injury to your feet can create additional complications and can lead to more serious problems. If you have any symptoms, especially underling issues outlined above it is important to see your doctor to prevent further difficulties.

Prevention Checklist

Although nothing can totally prevent toe fungus from occurring, the following simple habits can help mitigate the risk of exposing your nails to fungi or athlete’s foot.

  • Keep your feet and hands dry. Moisture and heavy sweating tend to encourage the growth of the fungi
  • If athlete’s foot is, or was, a common occurrence throughout your past, your infection rate may increase. Poor circulation, psoriasis, nails injuries or other skin conditions can increase your risk. Keep an eye on your nails and treat any signs or infection early.
  • Also wear proper footwear when in common areas such as gyms, showering rooms and public swimming pools.
  • Wash your hands after touching an infected nail.
  • Trim nails straight across, smooth the edges with a file and file down thickened areas. Disinfect your nail clippers after each use.
  • Wear sweat-absorbing socks or change your socks throughout the day.
  • Choose shoes made of materials that breathe.
  • Discard old shoes or treat them with disinfectants or antifungal powders.
  • Wear footwear in pool areas and locker rooms.
  • Choose a nail salon that uses sterilized manicure tools for each customer or better yet, give up nail polish and artificial nails. If you really crave polished nails, consider Dr’s Remedy Nail Polish. This antifungal nail polish is the only nail polish to receive the APMA (American Podiatric Medical Association) seal of approval.
Posted in Foot Care News.