What Is a Toenail Fungal Infection?

If you have a thickened, yellow or brown discoloured toenail, you may be suffering from a toenail fungal infection.

Known medically as onychomycosis or tinea unguium, this fungal infection can do considerable damage to the nail plate and underlying structure which may lead to the loss of part or whole of the toenail itself.

The principal And most common organism involved in fungal nail infections is the dermatophyte Trichophyton rubrum (the second is Trichophyton mentagrophytes which causes ringworm) and may affect the fingernails as well as toenails.

The fungus thrives in dark damp conditions such as those found within tight enclosed footwear, between the toes and under the nail plate but it will also thrive in areas where the male may be damaged, for example, whether on multiple layers of nail polish who solvent is destroying the nail. The fungus feeds on keratin which is the protein that the body uses in the formation of skin and nails.

It is prevalent in around 18% of the world population (about 2.5 million Americans) and can affect anyone of any age except it is unlikely in children or those below the age of 18. However many people fail to recognise or diagnose the condition in time to perform an early treatment, or think the condition is not serious enough to treat in the first place, even no it can be easily transmitted.

What you are looking for are a yellowish brown discolouration or white markings under the nail with or without thickening or detachment of the now play itself. You may be able to remove soft dark debris from under the nail or smell a dank odour. If the condition is left, the nail may eventually come away completely but will not necessarily grow back normally if the matrix (growth area) is affected also.

Although these dermatophyte’s live in the air around us you are more likely to become infected in public areas such as swimming pools or gyms whether our shower areas. The best way to avoid picking up the fungus is to wear something on your feet whilst in these bathing areas.

Early diagnosis is obviously preferable as it may be easier to treat the early stages of a fungal nail and waiting for its detachment to occur, therefore it is a good idea to visit your doctor or podiatrist who should be able to take a nail cutting and send it to the lab to confirm a onychomycosis infection as opposed to psoriasis for example.

They should also be able to give you the correct course of action to treat the fungus and advise on foot hygiene and natural toenail fungus home remedies that you may be able to take. However here are some basic things that you can do:

  • Wear open and comfortable shoes
  • Use a clean towel for your feet only
  • Observe good foot hygiene
  • Where clean, loose socks and hosiery daily
  • Avoid communal showers without footwear
  • Disinfect toenail scissors and cutters
  • Use tea tree oil and apply beneath the nail plate

The best way to treat your toenail fungal infection will be with either a topical over-the-counter anti-fungal such as Loceryl (containing amorolfine) or Lamisil (containing terbinafine), or by taking Lamisil or another oral antifungal, such as Sporanox (containing itraconazole) prescribed by your doctor. Note: there are side effects with some of these oral medications.

If all else fails you may be able to get a course of laser treatments on your fungal nail although these are expensive at around $1000 a treatment and bear in mind the relapse rate for a fungal toenail infection is between 10 to 20%.

The best place to start if you’re worried about toe nail fungus is to visit your chiropodist/podiatrist who will be able to advise you in the first instance. Your toenail fungal infection does not have to be suffered, remember there are many effective treatments out there, so don’t despair.