Do I have fungal nails?

fungusAre your nails are discolored, white, yellow, green, brown or black? Are they thicker than normal, loosen easily, lift up at the ends or sometimes fall off?

Discoloration can be caused by many things including fungus, yeast, mold, other chemicals like nailpolish. Trauma to the nail by dropping something on top of it, or the nail hitting your shoe repeatedly while walking, can cause thickness and an abnormal looking nail.

Fungus is common and is not caused by not been washing your feet properly. Even the cleanest most meticulous person can end up with fungal nails. The most common fungus that you have come in contact with is the Trichophyton rubrum fungus and it has unfortunately made a home under your nail. Fungus thrives in damp, warm and dark places, which includes your shoes, showers and swimming pools. The same fungus that causes fungal nails also causes athlete’s foot. The fungus can find its way into your skin through small cuts and into the nails if there is any subtle separation between the skin and the nail.

It is important before starting a treatment plan to know what you have a microorganism growing in your nail. This way the correct medication can be picked and you are not treating something that isn’t there looking for results. This is where your podiatrist comes into play. The doctor can take a biopsy of your nail and send it to a lab to be analyzed for what is causing your nail problem. This is usually a painless process. A couple different tests are run, one that takes a few days and the second that takes a couple weeks. Both tests combined give an answer about what is causing your nail to be abnormal and what you can do about it.

Both topical (placing the medication directly on the nail itself) and oral medications (pills which treat fungus from the inside out) are options for treatment and it is important to discuss with your podiatrist which one is right for you based on your lifestyle and the other medication you are taking.

Written by Dr. Holdren Otis.