Fungal Nail Infections
What is a fungal nail infection?
Fungal nail infections, also known as Onychomycosis (pronounced ON-E-CO-MY-CO-SIS), is a common nail disorder affecting between 3-5% of of the population and about 20% of the population over 60 years.1 The condition can affect both toenails and fingernails, however toenail infections are more common.1 It is important to treat fungal nail infections as they can be cosmetically unattractive and if left untreated can cause pain and discomfort.1
What causes fungal nail infections?
Fungal nail infections are caused by a fungus spreading under the nail into the nail bed.2 Fungal infections can be easily picked up anywhere there is a warm and moist environment allowing the fungus to spread from one person to another, for example swimming pools, public showers, and changing rooms.1 There are other factors contributing to fungal nail infections including the wearing of tight shoes, injury to the nail, advancing age and pre-existing medical conditions.2 Early treatment of fungal nail infections is important so that the condition does not progress and cause pain and discomfort.1
What are the signs of fungal nail infections?
The first signs are usually discolouration of the nail. The affected nail can exhibit a yellowish brown appearance.2 Fungal-infected nails can become thickened and distorted and may cause pain and discomfort particularly when wearing shoes.1
Who is at risk for developing a fungal nail infection?
There are a number of factors that can contribute to fungal nail infections these include:2
- poor circulation
- repeated nail trauma
- wearing tight closed-in shoes
- advancing age
- and pre-existing medical conditions
People participating in sporting activities that involve running may be at increased risk as there is often damage to the toenail that can allow infections to get under the nail. Running shoes offer a warm moist environment which is ideal for the development of a fungal infection. Occupations where hands are frequently wet, for example cooks and professional cleaners can increase the risk of fungal infections of the fingernails.3