Fungus nails is an unsightly condition which can be difficult to treat. Many patients become very conscious about a fungus nail condition and refuse to wear sandals and have their feet seen in public. It is caused by microscopic organisms called Dermatophytes. Dermatophytes grow in the nail bed, beneath the nail and live off keratin, the protein in the nail. The condition usually begins towards the far end of the nail and may start with patches of white or yellow discoloration. If the condition is left untreated, it will proceed to the base of the nail. It will attack the nail root (matrix) and cause the nail to grow very thick and deformed. The big toe is usually the first nail to be affected with the condition spreading to adjacent nails. In rare cases this condition can also affect the skin surrounding the nails.
APPEARANCE OF FUNGUS NAILS
• At an early stage, the nail may have white or yellow patches of discoloration. There may also be yellow horizontal streaks in the nail.
• At a later stage, the nail will grow thick, deformed, discoloured and have a foul odour (musty smell). It may also split and start to crumble.
SYMPTOMS OF FUNGUS NAILS
• The nail may become brittle and split in to several pieces.
• The actual condition is not painful. However, if the nail becomes thick and deformed it may grow into the skin at an angle and become an in-growing toenail also.
• In severe cases, inflammation may arise from an in-growing toenail which may result in a secondary infection.
• It will affect patients’ day to day activities as the pressure from the nails against the shoes causes’ discomfort.
• If the condition is left untreated for a long period of time, the nail will become very brittle and the patient may experience episodes of total removal of the nail followed by re-growth.
CAUSES OF FUNGUS NAILS
• There are many types of fungus present in our environment. Most are harmless; however, a group of fungi called dermatophytes can affect the feet. Dermatophytes thrive on warm, moist conditions.
• Sweaty shoes and moist socks can be a contributing factor.
• Most people may have the fungus present on their feet. However, a nail fungus infection may be caused due to the fungus invading the skin. This can be due to injury to the nail, inflammation from an in-growing toenail or inappropriate nail cutting.
• Excessive perspiration can also be a contributing factor.
• Individuals with a lower immunity due to Diabetes, H.I.V and patients with poor circulation.