Nail Fungus


This condition is a nail infection that develops when microscopic fungi penetrate the skin between the nail and the nail bed, causing the nail to become discolored, brittle and thick.


Most nail fungus is caused by a group of fungi called dermatophytes, although yeast and mold can also cause infections. Fungi thrive in warm, moist environments like swimming pools and locker rooms, and walking barefoot in these places increases the risk of developing a fungal infection. Toenails are more commonly affected than fingernails, because shoes provide the warm, moist environment that fungi prefer. Risk factors for nail fungus include heavy perspiration, decreased blood circulation, a weakened immune system, and diabetes.


Most nail infections begin with yellow streaks that form in the nail and nail bed. As the infection progresses, the nail grows thick and brittle. Nail fragments build up beneath the nail, and the nail may separate from the skin beneath it.


Fungal nail infections are difficult to treat and it is common for infections to recur, even after treatment. Care options include over-the-counter creams, oral antifungal medications and treatment with a specialized laser. In some cases, surgical removal of the infected nail may be required. After treatment, it may take months for a new, non-infected nail to grow back.