While you can find the word “fun” in nail fungus, this condition is no fun at all. Nail fungus occurs when microorganisms invade the nail(s) and cause a fungal infection. This condition typically affects the toenails, but can also affect the fingernails. In most cases, nail fungus is caused by dermatophytes, which are the same class of fungus that cause jock itch, athlete’s foot, and ringworm.
The most common symptoms of this condition are changes in the appearance of your nails. You may have a fungal nail infection if one or more of your nails start to thicken, become weirdly shaped, crumbly, and/ or darken from the buildup of debris under the nail. Although rare, this condition may also cause pain and an unpleasant odor that is said to smell like cheese. Hmm...maybe this unique odor is the “fun” part of nail fungus, for those of you who like the smell of cheese.
In all seriousness though, you probably want to know what you can do to avoid this condition in the first place. Number one: if you have athlete’s foot, you should definitely clear it up, as preexisting athlete’s foot can spread to one or more nails and cause nail fungus. Number two: make sure not to leave your nails damp or wet for an extended period. If your feet sweat excessively, or
this condition. Number one: if you have athlete’s foot, treat it as soon as possible, since preexisting athlete’s foot can spread to the nails and cause a fungal nail infection. Number two: do not leave your nails wet or damp in sweaty socks or shoes for prolonged periods, as a warm, damp environment is the perfect setting for fungi to proliferate. Number three: steer clear of walking barefoot in places where fungi can be found, such as a pool deck, gym locker room or gym showers. Instead, come equipped with protective gear—flip flops.
If you think you may have nail fungus, here are some things to know:
Before jumping on the bandwagon of treatments for nail fungus, your best bet is to first confirm whether or not you actually have nail fungus, as various conditions can resemble nail fungus, including a nail bed injury, and nail psoriasis. If you are familiar with the symptoms of nail fungus, yet are still unsure whether or not you have the condition, you can visit your dermatologist or podiatrist for diagnosis. Keep in mind that you can request that the physician send clippings and/ or cultures of your nail to the lab for diagnosis.
If you are diagnosed with nail fungus, your doctor will most probably prescribe you with one of the following antifungal drugs: terbinafine (Lamisil), or itraconazole (Sporanox), which are available in both pill and topical forms. The downside to these drugs is that they can come along with potentially serious side effects and health concerns (specifically the oral medications). In addition, you may need blood work done from time to time to monitor how you are doing with these types of drugs.