Fungal infection of the toenail is a common foot health problem, causing unsightly, thickened, discoloured nails. Toenail fungus is the most common nail disease in adults, affecting up to 10% of the population.
What causes a fungal toenail infection?
A fungus is a microscopic organism that lives off a protein (keratin) in the nail. Fungus thrives in a dark, warm, moist environment such as within sweaty sports shoes and moist socks. The toenails are especially vulnerable around damp areas where people are likely to be walking barefoot such as swimming pools, change rooms and communal showers. Some people seem to be more susceptible to developing fungal nail infections. These may include people with diabetes, circulation problems and immune-deficiency conditions.
How do I know if I have a Fungal Toenail Infection?
If you have a fungal nail infection you may notice that the toenail has become thicker, yellowish-brown or milky-white in colour, and sometimes malodorous. A build up of nail and skin may collect beneath the nail plate, and the nail may detach from the skin under the nail.
The infection is capable of spreading to your other toenails, the skin, and even the fingernails and to other members of your household. Fungal nail infections aren’t usually painful, however, if they cause excessive thickening of the nail plate this can result in some tenderness and difficulties in trimming the nail.
Nail infections don’t get better without treatment, and may get worse, affecting more of the nails and skin. The affected nail may be trimmed and reduced periodically by your foot specialist with an electric drill, removing diseased nail matter and debris and allowing antifungal lotions to be applied directly to the active edge of the fungus. You may be advised to apply an antifungal paint to your toenail regularly over many months.