I’ve Got What? Not Toenail Fungus!

A diagnosis of nail fungus or skin fungus is not something anyone wants to hear. And yet, these conditions are fairly common. Toenail and fingernail fungus can be hard to treat. Skin fungus (also known as athlete’s foot, jock itch and a few other conditions) is a bit more common.

Patients usually seek emergency care for fungus conditions when secondary infection causes pain and swelling. A fungus infected foot looks ugly and unhealthy. The most common form begins at the far end of the toenail, and grows inward. The symptoms of toenail fungus are relatively easy to see, the infection can cause the nail to swell, turn yellow, white or black. Foul-smelling debris also may accumulate under the nail. Another indicator of nail fungus may be a change in nail texture and growth. Also the nail may start thickening. Later on, the nail can grow fragile, chalky or crumbly, in some cases the nail may fall off or feel painful. Psoriasis can cause similar symptoms. It is best to see a doctor to be sure of this diagnosis. Discomfort from nail fungus infections can cause difficulty in walking, working and many other activities. Your toenails may get so thick that wearing shoes causes pain. These symptoms may not get better. In fact, most nail fungus infections get worse if left untreated.

Fingernail fungus is much more rare. It usually stems from a cut, wound or poor hygiene. It first shows up at the sides of fingernails or in the cuticle and quickly begins to feed on itself. Eventually it can take over the entire nail.

A healthy nail is transparent and pinkish in color. This is because the underlying skin is highly vascular (highly blood supplied). In the presence of fingernail fungus, the nail begins to digest the ‘keratin’ that is there to protect it from damage. Some of the most important symptoms of fingernail fungal infections include:

o Yellow, purple or brownish discoloration that starts at the end of the finger and works its way underneath

o The nails become brittle, flaky and chipped losing firmness and health

o Some fingernail infections appear as white or black patches on the nails that cannot be removed

o In cases where the fungal infection has progressed dramatically, there may be a presence of pus and odor.

o Additionally, as keratin disappears, the nail may start to lift.

o Pain, bleeding and pus appear.

o Nail shape changes, looking deformed and unattractive

How does this affect day to day living? Both toenail and fingernail fungus are embarrassing. Sufferers begin to alter their daily lives, to make efforts to hide their hands or feet and they can easily become so self-conscious they withdraw from activities. Pain also takes a toll. Certainly athletic skills may be compromised. As well as some career choices. Fungal infections cause other problems as well. Social situations, games and card-playing, dining out and just sharing daily activities tend to be avoided.

Fungal infections can be challenging. But they are not hopeless. Do not give up. There are web sites and products that can give you a carefree life again.