Fungal nail infections are a commonly occurring problem. It is estimated that as many as one in ten of all adults are affected by fungal affliction of the nails. The condition is caused by dermatophytes attacking the nails and taking hold in the keratin that the nails are composed of. Once it has forced itself into the nail, it starts to break down the keratin. The breakdown of keratin gives the fungus nutritional sustenance, and it propagates itself quickly. There is more than one type of skin fungus that can attack the nails but, in more than 9 of 10 cases, it is the type called trichopython rubrum that infects nails of the fingers and toes.
Fungal nail infections are accompanied by visual symptoms that are easy to recognise. The symptoms are typical for fungal attacks of the nails but can, under certain circumstances, be caused by other diseases or conditions. The condition primarily affects adults and adolescents.
Children are very seldom afflicted by fungal nail infections and, when symptoms typical to fungal infections of the nails appear, one should contact a doctor as there are probably other reasons behind the issues.
Toenails are more often afflicted than fingernails. The symptoms are not always obviously visible in the earlier stages of the fungal infection and can be difficult to detect.
- The first sign that commonly appears is that the nail starts to discolour. The colour change starts at the edges of the nail and moves inward.
- The discolouration often takes on a yellowish nuance, but may even be greyish or whitish-grey.
- The nail starts to look thicker, and can lift from the nail bed. In addition, it becomes porous and tender.
- The texture of the nail surface changes. The area looks unusual and the pores may be visible.
- The process which makes the nail porous and tender starts on the edges and moves inward.
- As the infection develops, bits of the nail can fall off or crumble apart.
An untreated affliction of fungal nail infection may also affect the skin around the nail. It can become inflamed and pain may occur under or around the nail. The skin may scale and white or yellow dots may be visible on the surface of the nail.