Overgrowth of fungi in the nail or other body part leads to infection. The fingernails and toenails are the body parts most commonly affected by fungi growth. Fungi infection onychomycosis is also known as tinea unguium.
The infection is a gradual process that develops overtime, thus it takes a while for it to be noticeable or detected. It may affect either part of or the entire nail, one, several or all the nails.
1. Change in nail color
Any change in nail color, appearance, texture or feels should immediately be checked to screen for fungi infection of the nail. Fungi infection of the nail usually occurs in, on or under the nail and the infection can be spread by contact with an infected person.
The toenails are most affected by fungi than the fingernails. Overgrowth of fungi occurs more commonly in the toes than most other body parts. This is because the toe is more in contact with the floor and the environment.
2. How can it spread
Fungi infection of the nails can also be spread via manicure and pedicure instruments, nail clippers and other tools used to care for the nails. To reduce the infection spread from person-to-person, ensure the nail tools are properly sanitized and disinfected before use.
The infection occurs more in men than in women and are more commonly found among adults than in the children. There is an increased risk of getting the infection with family history. Also, older adults are more prone to the infection because of the decreased blood circulation with their nails growing more slowly than when younger, the nails also thickens as one age.
Most of the causes and risk factors of fungal nail infection are preventable. Some of the risk factors that predispose to fungal infection of the nail are:
- Having moist fingers or toes for a long period of time
- Skin injury around the nail
- Wearing artificial nails
- Age (65 years and above)
- Swimming in public pools
- Diseases that result in poor blood circulation through the body
- Weakened immune system
- Wearing tight and close toe shoes e.g. boots, canvass, tennis shoes etc.
The common signs that are visible and noticeable with fungal nail infection are nail discoloration, distorted nails that lift off the nail bed, nail odor, thickened or brittle nails, scaling under the nail, flaking white area on nail surfaces, nail loss or breakage, white or yellow streak appearance on the nail (lateral onychomycosis), crumbling nail tips or corners (distal onychomycosis), appearance of yellow spots at the bottom of the nails (proximal onychomycosis).
If nail fungal infection is suspected or you notice any unusual development with or in your nail, make sure you see a doctor to confirm diagnosis. Scrapings from the nail will be used in diagnosis for microscopic examination to confirm it fungi. Anti fungal medications might be administered for treatment as needed.
Other anti fungal therapies that might be administered include anti fungal topical solutions, nail lacquer or nail polish. These topical applications might take a while to be effective, they therefore need to be applied for several months.
Reinfection is common in most cases and complications might result, if the fungal nail infection is not promptly treated.
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