Fungal nail infections are also known as onychomycosis. It is usually a painless condition when the fungus infects the toenail causing it to become discoloured, flaky, brittle, uncomfortable and unsightly. Fungal nail infection is about four times more common in toenails than fingernails and can involve part or the entire nail, including the nail plate, nail bed and root of the nail.
Causes of Fungal Nail Infections
Fungal nail infection in the toenail is most commonly caused by a fungal skin infection, such as athlete’s foot. Around a third of people with athlete’s foot will also have a nail infection. The fungus that causes nail infections can be found on floors and in socks and clothing. It can be spread from person to person by contact with these objects and is highly contagious. The fungus can enter the nail and nail bed if the nail has become damaged or broken.
Infecting organisms of Fungal Nail Infections:
Trichophyton rubrum or Trichophyton mentagrophytes cause over 90% of cases, with T. rubrum being responsible for about 70% of the total.
Other organisms in this group include Epidermophyton spp. and Microsporum spp.
Cause about 8% of total infections, particularly Candida albicans in the UK and Malassezia furfur in tropical climes.
3. Non-dermatophyte moulds:
Cause about 2% of total infections, e.g. Scopulariopsis brevicaulis.
Signs and symptoms of Fungal Nail Infections
You are unlikely to experience any pain or discomfort from a fungal nail infection, though you may see one or more of the following signs –
Discolouration of the nail ( white to yellow or green to brown), patches, streaks or islands.
Thickening and distortion of the nail.
Brittleness and crumbling, splitting or pitting of the nail.
A soft layer of debris under the nail.
Nail can be detached from the nail bed.