What Is a Fungal Nail Infection?
A fungal nail infection is a common condition that can leave you with brittle, discolored toe nails. Fungi are tiny organisms that can only be seen through a microscope. Many different types of fungi can cause a nail infection.
Onychomycosis is the formal name for a fungal nail infection. It is similar type of infection to athlete’s foot, but instead of affecting the skin on the bottom of your feet or between your toes, it invades your toe nails.
Types of Fungal Nail Infections
There are four main kinds of fungal nail infections. Each looks slightly different:
- Distal or lateral subungual onychomycosis. This is the most common type of fungal nail infection, and it results from a fungus called a dermatophyte. It starts with a yellowish colored area on your nail that spreads from the edges to the center of the nail.
- White superficial onychomycosis. This is less common and only affects the nail surface. It starts as white spots, which become powdery and cause the nail to crumble.
- Proximal subungual onychomycosis. This appears first as white spots in the center of the nail bed at the cuticle. The spots move outward as the nail grows. It is rare and usually affects people who have immune system problems.
- Candidal onychomycosis. Yeast causes this type of infection. The area around the nails is often swollen and inflamed, and the nails may come off entirely. It tends to happen to nails that have been damaged by an injury or another infection.
Fungal Nail Infection Symptoms
Symptoms can vary depending on which type of fungal nail infection you have. Infections usually start mild and eventually become more serious.
- At first, you may only see a white or yellow spot under your nail. Over time, this spreads and can turn your whole nail white, yellow, green, or black.
- The nail may thicken and could become hard to trim.
- The nail may start to curl up or down, or loosen from the nail bed.
- The nail could become brittle and crumble when you touch it.
- The nail may become misshapen.
- The nail may omit a bad smell.