How to recognize a nail fungus

Nail fungus comes in many different varieties and can appear in many different ways.

Although it’s easier to get a nail fungus on the feet, any discoloration of the fingernails or toenails should be considered an indication that a nail fungus is present. The fingernails or toenails which have shown shades of brown, black, yellow, or green should be examined by a physician.

Usually, it will take months for the discoloration to be noticeable and by then the fungus has a full hold on the nail. The thickening of the nail itself is another sign of a fungus. Again, this can happen over a period of months, and by then the damage has already begun.

Sometimes there is no discoloration or thickness of the nail, but severe itching on the toe or around the nail is a definite red flag. Nails that show grooves, pockmarks or ridges should also be an alert to have them checked.

A nail fungus often begins by organisms that take up residence on the feet or under the toenails, and since the fungus loves dark, moist places, shoes and socks give the fungus the perfect home place. Nail polishes, removers and hardeners also contribute to fungus growth by trapping moisture in or under the nail, promoting the perfect growth place, as do fake nails.

Often, the first indications of a nail fungus are something as non-threatening as the nail peeling slightly. The nail will crack on the very edges, snagging on threads and the like, then continue to crack downwards towards the cuticle.

Sometimes the nail will be brittle but have just mild flaking symptoms, but even this is an indication to at least have a physician look at the nail. It’s important to catch a fungus as early as possible since they tend to spread very rapidly.

Through the years, smelly feet have been the butt of many jokes, but can be a real sign that a fungus is present. Sometimes there are no discolorations, thickened nails, or smell, but there is an ache under your toenail. If the fungus has gotten between the toenail and the skin, you can have pain from mild to severe, particularly when walking or wearing shoes. Bleeding around the cuticle or detachment of the cuticle means the fungus is doing serious damage and must be treated.

After a nail fungus has taken hold, it is often very difficult to rid the nail of the tiny organisms. Topical solutions are available but take months of constant treatment before noticing any real effect. Oral medications can be prescribed by your physician, but not only take a good amount of time to work, but sometimes have even more serious side effects.

A nail fungus can be extremely contagious, since the organisms love damp and dark places, and can be passed around in showers, locker rooms, and even your local manicurist. If you have a nail fungus, protect others by using an antibacterial cleaner after every use of the shower or tub. Wear foot coverings at all times, but try to replace shoes and socks with sandals as often as possible.

Do not go to the manicurist until the fungus has been treated completely. Nail fungus can cause soreness, bleeding, and the eventual loss of one or all of the nails, so if a fungus is suspected, do not hesitate to have it treated by a physician. Ask about the side effects of any treatments before starting them.

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