Fungal Nails

Fungal Nails

What are Fungal Nails?

Fungal nails, also known as onychomycosis or tinea unguium, are a fungal infection of the nails. Fungal nails are often characterized by discoloured, crumbly, thickened, and brittle nails, and sometimes malodorous. The fungal infection can sometimes spread to the surrounding skin or may have originated in the skin, like the athlete’s foot, and spread to the nails.

Types of Fungal Nails

There are 3 types of fungal nails, each caused by specific species of fungal cells. They are called:

  • Dermatophyte onychomycosis – the most common and is caused by Trichophyton species, often spreading from fungal skin
  • Non-dermatophyte mould onychomycosis – caused by mould species and often due to nail trauma and hygiene issues
  • Candida onychomycosis – caused by Candida species and typically starts from paronychia (inflamed sides of the nail)

Causes of Fungal Nails

Fungal nail infections are opportunistic, which means that the fungal cells are given the right conditions to start an infection. There are multiple causes and risk factors of fungal nail infections and are often difficult to determine.

Causes and risk factors of fungal nails include:

  • Nail trauma
  • Inappropriate pedicure or nail-trimming techniques
  • Prolonged use of nail polish
  • Hot and humid conditions
  • Poor foot hygiene

Signs and Symptoms of Fungal Nails

Fungal nails can present in various appearances. Signs and symptoms of fungal nails include:

  • Discoloured nails (e.g white, yellow, brown, or black)
  • Brittle nails with powdery debris under the nails
  • Subungual hyperkeratosis (hard, thickened skin under the nail)
  • Change in nail shape, often resulting in an ingrown toenail

 

The appearance of fungal nails is classified into 3 categories:

  • Distal subungual onychomycosis – only the ends of the nail are affected
  • Total dystrophic onychomycosis – infection of the entire affected nail
  • White superficial onychomycosis – white discolouration on the surface of the affected nail

Fungal Nails Treatment

Fungus is known to be stubborn and difficult to eradicate. Patients are often misled into trying various home remedies with little to no improvements. Fungal nails should be treated early for faster results and to prevent further spread.

Treatment options for fungal nails include:

  • Topical anti-fungal application for very mild cases
  • PACT therapy for mild-to-moderate cases
  • Oral anti-fungal medications
  • Nail avulsion and debridement may be needed for severe cases

Fungal Nails Prevention

Fungal nails are easier to prevent than to treat. It is important to:

  • Ensure good foot hygiene
  • Avoid unnecessary pedicures and nail polish
  • Avoid picking your nails
  • Clean and dry enclosed footwear
  • Change socks daily
  • Apply foot powder if you have sweaty feet

Contact Us