Nail Fungus: What It Is, Symptoms, Causes, And Treatment

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Nail Fungus: What It Is, Symptoms, Causes, And Treatment

Nail fungus in addition to appearing unsightly, can also be uncomfortable and, in some cases, painful.

Nail Fungus: What it is, Symptoms, Causes, and Treatment

Image Source: Dinodia

Everyone of us desires for beautiful, smooth nails. However, imagine yourself sitting on a sunny patio, sipping a cup of coffee, and enjoying the warm breeze. As you glance down at your feet, may you notice something unsettling about your nails? They may appear yellowish, thickened, and brittle, with an unpleasant odour emanating from them. What you may be experiencing is nail fungus, a common condition that affects millions of people worldwide.

What is Nail fungus?

Nail fungus, medically known as onychomycosis, is a fungal infection that develops on the nails. It typically starts with the toenails and can cause a range of symptoms, including discolouration, thickening, crumbling, and even separation of the nail from the nail bed.

Nail fungus develops on nails when various types of fungi, including dermatophytes, yeasts, and moulds, invade the nails and thrive in the warm, moist environment they provide. These fungi enter the nail through small cuts or separations between the nail and the nail bed, often caused by injury or trauma.

Symptoms of nail fungus

Discoloration: Discolouration is one of the earliest signs of nail fungus. The affected nail may appear yellowish, brownish, or can develop white spots or streaks.

Thickened nails: The nails can become thickened and may lose their natural shape and contour as the fungus infection intensifies. It may become difficult to trim or file the nails.

Brittle or crumbly nails: Infected nails tend to become brittle, fragile, and prone to crumbling or breaking. They may develop a rough or jagged texture.

Nail deformation: In some cases, nails become distorted or misshapen due to the infection. They may develop ridges, grooves, or pits, making them appear uneven or irregular.

Nail separation: In certain advanced cases, nail fungus can lead to the separation of the nail from the nail bed. This condition is known as onycholysis and can cause pain and discomfort.

Causes of Nail Fungus

Fungal infection: Exposure to fungi is the primary cause of nail fungus. These microscopic organisms thrive in warm, moist environments, such as public pools, locker rooms, and showers.

Weakened immune system: People ailing with diabetes, HIV/AIDS, or autoimmune disorders have weakened immune systems and are more susceptible to nail fungus.

Trauma or injury: Injuries to the nail or the surrounding skin can create openings through which fungi can enter and cause an infection.

Poor nail hygiene: If you fail to keep your nails clean, dry, and properly trimmed you are at the risk of developing nail fungus.

Shared footwear and nail care tools: Sharing shoes, socks, or nail clippers with those having a fungal infection can facilitate the spread of the fungus.

Treatment Options

Antifungal medications: Nail fungus is effectively treated by consuming oral antifungal medications prescribed by a healthcare professional. These medications target the fungal infection from within the body.

Topical antifungal treatments: There are various over-the-counter antifungal creams, ointments, or nail lacquers available that can be applied directly to the infected nails to combat the fungal infection.

Laser therapy: Laser treatment is a newer approach to treating nail fungus. This method uses focused laser energy to target and destroy the fungi without harming the surrounding tissue.

Surgical intervention: In severe cases of nail fungus where conservative treatments have failed, surgical intervention may be necessary. This may involve removing the infected nail or part of the nail to allow for the growth of a healthy nail.

Home Remedies: Natural remedies, such as tea tree oil, vinegar soaks, or essential oils, to treat nail fungus can also be effective in treating nail fungus. While these remedies may have anecdotal support, scientific evidence is limited, and it is advisable to consult with a healthcare professional before using them.

Lifestyle Tips

Practise good foot hygiene: Always keep your feet clean and dry, especially after swimming or engaging in activities that cause perspiration. Dry your feet thoroughly, including between the toes, to prevent moisture buildup.

Wear proper footwear: Always wear breathable shoes that are made of materials like leather or mesh and allow air circulation. Avoid tight, narrow shoes that can create a warm and moist environment conducive to fungal growth.

Use antifungal sprays or powders: Apply antifungal sprays or powders to your feet and inside your shoes to help prevent fungal growth and reinfection.

Do not share personal items: Always refrain from sharing socks, shoes, nail clippers, or other personal items that may come into contact with infected nails.

Maintain nail hygiene: Trim your nails regularly, keeping them short and straight across. Avoid cutting them too close to the skin or rounding the corners, as this can create openings for fungi to enter.


Nail fungus can be a bothersome condition, but it is important to remember that effective treatments and prevention strategies are available. If you suspect you have nail fungus, consult with a healthcare professional for an accurate diagnosis and personalised treatment plan. With patience, diligence, and the right approach, you can get rid of nail fungus and restore the health and appearance of your nails.

Disclaimer: The above content is for informational purposes only and should not be used as a substitute for the advice of a qualified physician or doctor. The Company does not vouch for or endorse any of the above content, and disclaims any and all warranties, express or implied, relating to the same.