Here’s why you’re struggling with nail fungus.

Have you ever noticed your fingernails turning a strange color or becoming unusually thick? It might seem like a minor inconvenience, but these could be signs of a common yet often misunderstood condition: fingernail fungus. Imagine your nails as a fortress under siege, with tiny invaders slowly breaking down their defenses.

Fingernail fungus, or onychomycosis, affects millions worldwide, causing discomfort and sometimes embarrassment. But once you understand all the causes and solutions, you can take control of your nail health and overall well-being.

In this article, we will look into what dermatologists have to say about the causes of fingernail fungus and provide evidence-based solutions to fix it. You’ll gain a comprehensive understanding of this condition and how to effectively address it. Let’s explore the hidden culprits behind fingernail fungus and discover practical steps to keep your nails healthy and strong.

What is Fingernail Fungus?

Fingernail fungus, medically called onychomycosis, is a common infection. It happens when fungi invade the nail bed, the skin under the nail, or the nail itself. This infection can affect both fingernails and toenails, but it’s often more noticeable and bothersome when it affects the hands. Onychomycosis is caused by myriad types of fungi, including dermatophytes, yeasts, and molds. These microscopic organisms flourish in warm and moist environments, making your nails an ideal target.

fingernail fungus

Fungal Infection Symptoms and Signs to Watch For

Recognizing the symptoms of fingernail fungus early can help you address the problem before it worsens. Here are some common signs to look out for:

  • Discoloration: One of the earliest and most notable signs is a change in nail color. The nail may turn white, yellow, brown, or even black. This discoloration typically starts at the edge of the nail and gradually spreads inward.
  • Thickening: Infected nails often become thicker than usual. This thickening can make the nails difficult to trim and may cause discomfort when wearing shoes or using your hands.
  • Brittleness and Crumbling: As the infection progresses, the nail may become brittle or even crumble or split. This can lead to uneven, jagged edges that snag on clothing or other objects.
  • Distorted Shape: Fungal infections can cause the nail to develop an unusual shape. The nail may appear warped, lifted, or separated from the nail bed, which can be both painful and unsightly.
  • Foul Odor: A fungal infection can sometimes produce a noticeable odor. This unpleasant smell often indicates that the infection has advanced and requires prompt attention.
  • Pain and Discomfort: While the early stages of the infection might be painless, as the fungus penetrates deeper, it can cause pain and tenderness around the nail, mainly when pressure is applied.

Why It’s Important to Treat It Promptly

Quickly treating fingernail fungus is essential for several reasons:

  • Preventing Spread: Fungal infections are contagious and can spread to other nails or parts of your body. If you don’t seek treatment, the infection can spread to others, especially in communal environments like gyms, pools, and locker rooms.
  • Avoiding Complications: Although nail fungus might seem pretty minor, it can lead to more serious complications if ignored. For individuals with weakened immune systems, diabetes, or other underlying health conditions, a simple fungal infection can escalate into a more severe problem, potentially leading to secondary bacterial infections.
  • Reducing Pain and Discomfort: As the infection progresses, it can cause tremendous pain and discomfort, making everyday activities like walking, typing, or even shaking hands uncomfortable. Treating the infection can alleviate these symptoms and prevent further discomfort.
  • Improving Nail Appearance: Fungus-infected nails can be unsightly, leading to self-consciousness and embarrassment. Early treatment can restore the appearance of your nails, boosting your confidence and allowing you to feel comfortable in social situations.
  • Maintaining Overall Health: Your nails are integral to your body’s defense system. Healthy nails protect the sensitive skin beneath them and help prevent infections. Promptly treating nail fungus supports your body’s overall health and well-being.

Understanding fingernail fungus and recognizing the symptoms early are crucial steps in managing this common condition. Prompt treatment can stop it from spreading, reduce pain and discomfort, and improve the appearance of your nails, helping you maintain good overall health and confidence.

What Are the Main Causes of Fingernail Fungus?

A variety of factors can cause fingernail fungus. Understanding these underlying causes can help you prevent it and get appropriate treatment if needed. Here are some of the primary causes:

fungal infection

1 – Nail Fungus Can Come From Poor Hygiene

Poor hygiene is among the leading causes of fingernail fungus. When nails and the skin around them are not kept clean and dry, fungi can thrive. Regularly washing your hands and nails and thoroughly drying them can help prevent fungal infections.

Maintaining good hand hygiene is imperative to prevent fungal infections.

2 – Fingernail Fungus Thrives Moist Environments

Fungi thrive in moist environments. Constant exposure to water or sweat can make your nails more susceptible to fungal infections. That is why individuals who frequently have wet hands, such as swimmers or those who wear sweaty gloves, are at higher risk.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) emphasizes the importance of keeping hands dry to prevent fungal infections.

3 – Fungus Can Thrive After Nail Injuries

Injuries to the nail or its surrounding skin can provide an entry point for fungi. Even minor cuts, scrapes, or trauma can allow fungi to invade and establish an infection. Proper care of nail injuries is crucial to prevent fungal growth.

The Mayo Clinic explains how nail injuries can lead to fungal infections. They also explain that if the condition does not clear up at home after self-treatment, you should make an appointment with a dermatologist.

4 – Weak Immune System

A weakened immune system makes it hard for your body to fight infections. That includes fungus. Conditions such as HIV/AIDS, cancer treatments, or medications suppressing the immune system can increase the risk of developing nail fungus.

5 – Fungal Infections Often Flourish in Shared Spaces

Using communal spaces like swimming pools, gyms, or locker rooms can increase the odds of fungal infections. These environments are often warm and moist, making them ideal breeding grounds for fungi. Wearing protective footwear and practicing good hygiene in these settings is essential.

6 – Diabetes and Other Health Conditions

Individuals with diabetes or other chronic disorders are more prone to nail fungus. That’s because of a reduced blood circulation and a weakened immune response. Proper management of these health conditions is vital to reduce the risk of infections.

The American Diabetes Association (ADA) agrees that diabetes is associated with a higher infection risk, including skin or nail fungus.

Understanding the various causes of fingernail fungus can help you take steps to prevent it. Maintaining good hygiene, keeping your hands dry, protecting your nails from injury, and managing underlying health conditions are all important strategies. Call your doctor or dermatologist for appropriate treatment and care if you suspect a fungal infection.

How to Fix Fingernail Fungus

Treating fingernail fungus requires a multifaceted approach that may include over-the-counter treatments, prescription medications, and home remedies. Each method has its advantages and limitations. Knowing these options can help you get the best treatment for your situation.

Home Remedies for Nail Fungus

Many people use home remedies to treat fingernail fungus, although their effectiveness varies widely. Some popular home remedies include the following:

  • Vinegar Soaks: Soaking the affected nails in vinegar and water is believed to create an acidic environment to inhibit fungal growth.
  • Tea Tree Oil: Known for its powerful antifungal properties, tea tree oil can go directly onto the nail.
  • Garlic: Crushed garlic, known for its antimicrobial properties, can be applied to the nail or ingested to fight infection from within.

While some people report success with these remedies, scientific evidence is limited.

Prevention Tips for Fingernail Fungus

Preventing fingernail fungus involves adopting good hygiene practices and making some lifestyle changes:

  • Keep Nails Clean and Dry: Regularly wash both your hands and feet, and ensure they are thoroughly dried, especially after showering or swimming.
  • Trim Nails Properly: Keep nails short and trim them straight across. Avoid cutting your nails too close to the skin, which can cause injuries and increase infection risk.
  • Use Protective Footwear: Wear shoes that allow your feet to breathe, and always wear flip-flops in communal showers or locker rooms.
  • Avoid Sharing Personal Items: To prevent the spread of fungi, don’t share nail clippers, shoes, or towels with others.
  • Wear Breathable Gloves: If your hands are frequently exposed to moisture, wear breathable gloves to keep them dry.

fingernail fungus

Final Thoughts on the Causes of Fingernail Fungus and How to Prevent It

Fingernail fungus can be a persistent and frustrating condition, but understanding its causes and treatments can help you manage and overcome it. Whether through OTC treatments, prescription medications, or home remedies, restoring your nails to health is possible. Remember to maintain good hygiene and take preventive measures to avoid future infections. If your nail symptoms persist or get worse, seek professional medical guidance to ensure proper care and treatment. By taking proactive steps, you can keep your nails healthy and strong, preventing fungal infections from recurring.