Fungi infection of the nails, which has the technical name onychomycosis, is a common medical condition that can be caused either by the dermatophyte fungi or Candida. This dermatophyte fungus, which is also responsible for athlete’s foot, is easily transmitted in moist areas like swimming pools, while Candida is responsible for yeast infections. Fungal nails can affect both fingernails and toenails and any part of the nail: the nail plate, the nail bed, or the root of the nail. People with weakened immune systems, poor hygiene, and those suffering from health conditions like diabetes or psoriasis are more prone to acquiring nail fungi. Furthermore, nail fungi is rarer in children than in adults. Other factors that increase the risk of acquiring nail fungi include being in a constantly humid environment and experiencing regular damage to the nails.
Nail fungi can start out harmless and painless, as a spot of white or yellow discoloration under the nail. This condition, as it develops, causes the nail to look abnormal. The nail can become discoloured and turn black or green from white and yellow. The nail can thicken and start crumbling at the edges, which is a sign that the fungal infection is spreading deeper. The afflicted nail will then become brittle and crumbly. It will lose its shine, appearing dull. Soon, debris will accumulate under the nail, giving it a dark color. Although nail fungi is not highly contagious, it poses a risk of causing further complications like bacterial infection of the skin.
The easiest treatment for nail fungi is to purchase antifungal medicines like antifungal tablets and nail paint. However, for the extremely severe cases, high energy laser treatment may be used to kill the fungus. In some cases, surgery is even done to remove the affected nail.