1. What exactly is toenail fungus?
Toenail fungus is a microorganism called a dermatophyte(s) that thrive and spread in moist and/or dark conditions. Dermatophytes are the same type of fungus that can cause athlete’s foot; however, in this case the dermatophytes find their way under the nail bed where it is largely protected and can grow.
2. What are the main symptoms of a toenail fungus infection?
The symptoms can vary but usually begin with a yellowing of the nail. The discoloration can vary and instead be whitish opaque or even brown to green in color. Along with the discoloration, the nail may begin to thicken and become brittle and start to flake away in smallish chips along the periphery of the infected nail.
3. Who is most susceptible to nail fungus?
Anyone can fall victim to nail fungal infections but people over 60 years of age and those who have compromised immune symptoms are more likely to get a fungal infection in general. In addition, people who do not prevent fungal exposure by wearing shoes in public pools and showers are under increased susceptibility to fall victim to an infection.
4. Are nail fungus infections contagious?
Yes. Damage to the nail bed, cuticle or nail matrix can allow an infection to occur if you come into contact with the fungus. Nail salons, public pools and showers are common places to pick up the fungus.
5. Why does the fungus affect the nail?
Toenail fungus thrives in dark moist areas and it feeds on keratin. Often nail fungus begins as a fungus of the skin and then enters the nail for more protection and a perfect growth environment. Your feet are the perfect breeding ground for fungal infections and nails are made of keratin. Once exposed to the fungi, it works its way under the nail through a cut or trauma and the nail itself protects and feeds it.
6. Are fingernail fungus infections more or less severe?
Though toenails are a better breeding ground for fungus, fingernails can get nail fungal infections as well. Fingernail infections are easier to notice, treat and cure as they are seldom in moist dark areas and people are more conscious of the look of their fingernail prompting them to get treatment sooner.
7. Can toenail fungus become a serious health problem?
Toenail fungal infections can lead to a lot of pain as well as a lifting of the nail allowing debris to enter and further decay the infection. A complete loss of the toenail can occur if the fungus is left untreated. Generally speaking though, nail fungus is never life threatening and would not spread to vital parts of the body.
8. What about using nail polish when toenail fungus is present?
Nail polish will cover the discoloration that is common with toenail fungus; however, it will not treat the infection and can often make it worse. Nail polish will seal the nail and moisture and humidity with it which creates even more protection for the fungal agents.
9. Will toenail fungus ever go away itself?
No. The sooner you begin treatment for the infection the more effective it will be and the quicker you will be rid of the fungus all together. If left untreated the infection will continue to grow and spread until it is very painful and unsightly and possibly resulting in harsh chemical treatments, harmful oral treatments and even surgical removal of the nail. There are quite a few very solid nail fungus cure options available that have high success rates and are a reasonably priced.
10. Can I get rid of the toenail fungus myself?
Yes. The earlier you begin treatment the more effective the treatment and quicker the cure. Healing natural oils such as tea tree oil and lavender blends can be an effective remedy you can try on your own. In addition, there are a variety of topical solutions available that are less intrusive and expensive than laser or oral, prescription medications.