Many changes in the fingernails or toenails may cause people to think they have a fungal nail infection. In this blog post, we will discuss what exactly are fungal nail infections and how can they be distinguished from other nail conditions.
Fungal infections are the most common diseases of the nails, making up about 50% of nail abnormalities. Dermatophytes, a type of fungus, are responsible for most of the fungal nail infections. However, yeasts and moulds will also cause the nails to become discoloured and thickened.
In reality, abnormal-looking nails may be caused by a number of conditions including, but not limited to, fungal infection. There are many other reasons why your nails may look different.
What other conditions can be mistaken for fungal nails?
Thickened Nails (Onychauxis)
This is when the nails become very thick and difficult to cut. Sometimes the patient can feel pain and discomfort from the nails and they can become discoloured. Toenails can become thick due to trauma and injury. It can also occur in patients who wear ill fitting footwear and patients with poor circulation to the feet.
Yellow Nail Syndrome
This is a condition which causes the nails to become thickened, yellow and can curve inwards. The exact cause of this condition is unknown but it is believed to have a strong genetic link. Patients with yellow nail syndrome often suffer with respiratory conditions and may have swelling in their arms and legs as a result.
This is an autoimmune disease which affects the skin and nails. It can be recognised by red, scaly and dry patches on the skin. In the beginning, nails will appear white or yellow at the to and it can spread further down the nail.. Nail psoriasis also causes the nails to become discoloured, dry and thickened. In addition to this, the nail can become separated from the skin and bacteria can enter under the nail, causing a dark appearance.
A number of other conditions may seem like a fungal nail infection, for example separation of the nail from the nail bed known as onycholysis, a blood blister under the nail or a bacterial infection to name a few.
Before treatment is commenced, conditions which are similar to fungal nail infections should be ruled out. Our Podiatrists at South Dublin Podiatry Clinic can perform a quick, 5 Minute Fungal Nail Test to check if fungus is present in the nail.
Causes and risk factors
- Fungi thrive in warm, moist environments and can be picked up in communal showers and changing rooms
- Athlete’s foot can spread and infect the toenails
- Living with someone who has a fungal nail infection
- Wearing tight or sweaty footwear
- Repetitive trauma to the nails
- Ageing can increase the risk of developing a fungal nail infection
- Certain medical conditions such as diabetes
Fungal nail infections can be very stubborn and difficult to treat.
- Having your nails filed down by a podiatrist and then using an over the counter anti-fungal nail treatment. Filing of the nails allows the anti-fungal treatment to penetrate the nail bed.
- Lacuna Nail Treatment, performed in our clinic, involves a channel being created from the nail plate to the nail bed. An anti-fungal spray is then used to penetrate the nail bed and clear the infection at its source.
- Anti-fungal tablets, known as Lamisil, contain an ingredient called Terbinafine and can be prescribed for a couple of months to help clear the infection. However, these can affect the liver and kidneys.
There is many ‘old wives’ tales’ surrounding the treatment of fungal nail infections such as using apple cider vinegar or vikcs rub, however there is no clear evidence supporting those. Please note, the tea tree oil is no longer recommended by the World Health Organisation as a suitable product in treatment of fungal nail infections due to many skin burns that have been reported with the use of this product.
Interested in Taking Our 5 Minute Fungal Nail Test?