Fungal nail infection is caused by a fungus that grows in and around your fingernail or toenail. Fungi naturally thrive on the dead tissues found in nails, hair, and the external skin layers. The most common fungal infections include athlete’s foot, ringworm, and jock itch. Fungal nail infections often follow an infection on the feet. They are more prevalent in toenails compared to fingernails. They are also more common among male adults who are 60 years old and above.
The fungus can thrive naturally in the human body without causing any trouble unless it spreads. Dermatophytes are the most common type of fungi that can cause nail infections. These infections may also be caused by yeasts and molds. Some risk factors may increase the likelihood of your getting infected as well. These include having diabetes, a weak immune system, or blood circulation disorder, walking barefoot in damp public areas like pools, a family history of nail fungal infections, sharing personal items with others, etc.
Some of the nail changes that occur in a nail fungal infection include the following: brittle nails, changes in nail shape and color, loosened or lifted nails, nail thickening, having debris trapped underneath the nails, loss of luster or shine on the nail’s surface, pain and discomfort, and sometimes the nail emits a foul smell.
When the infection is severe and it affects several nails, over-the-counter creams and ointments will not work. The more aggressive nail fungus treatment is a prescription oral antifungal which has to be taken for several weeks up to a year. A prescription-based topical antifungal may also be given by a doctor as an alternative to the pills. Laser treatments are also available although less effective than antifungal pills.