Fungal nail infections, also called onychomycoses, are very common infections of the nails or toenails which will cause the nail to be discolored, thickened, and likely to break easily. Nail infections are much more common in adult toenails more so than fingernail infections. The technical term for a fungal nail infection is onychomycosis. It is important to understand this condition because of its potential for spreading to other fingers or toes.
A number of different species of bacteria are involved in fungal nail infections. They generally share the same general characteristics and are typically able to do well on the skin of most people. Bacteria that cause skin infection are known as dermatophytes. Other species that might be involved are candida and yeast. It is also possible for an infection to spread from a nail surface to the surrounding skin, making it quite a serious and potentially fatal infection.
The most common characteristic of an infection in the skin, called onychomycosis, is that it affects the skin of the finger. Signs and symptoms include thickened, discolored nails that may crack or split, painful or burning sensations when the skin is touched, tenderness or swelling at the site of the infection, and at times even blisters. It is not unusual for some of these signs and symptoms to spread to the surrounding skin, creating open sores and similar problems. The distal subungual onychomycosis or finger nail usually affects the skin under the first two layers of the nail, although some infections have affected the outermost layer of skin and the finger nail bed itself.
The most important prevention against fungal nail infection, therefore, consists of practicing good personal hygiene and avoiding places where they are likely to come into contact with a fungus. This would include public swimming pools, gym showers, spas, hot tubs and other public areas. It would also include the use of flip flops and rubber footwear in such environments. Shoes and socks should be changed daily and are worn at all times, even if only for short periods of time. While it can sometimes be difficult to keep your feet clean and dry, it is important to remember that the human body has a natural ability to combat the development of fungal infections and overgrowth of Candida yeast, so wearing tight-fitting shoes and socks and avoiding direct contact with the ground is one way to keep the skin dry and healthy.
In cases where there is a thickened nail bed or nail, it is important to treat it promptly. A thickened nail bed is an indication that there is a fungal nail growth underneath that skin. There are several ways to treat a thickened nail bed. Doctors can perform surgery, which is very invasive and expensive, or the patient could try home remedies, many of which can be purchased over the counter.
Natural, home remedies are becoming more popular due to the fact that they often have fewer side effects and are less costly than traditional medical approaches. Home remedies that can be used to treat fungal nail infections include tea tree oil and coconut oil, yogurt, vitamin E and Epsom salt. Many of these natural remedies can be applied directly to the skin to help relieve irritation or discomfort from the infection. Most people find that applying topical treatments for fungal infections can be very soothing and can help to bring immediate relief from severe symptoms of the condition.