Nail fungus

Nail fungus is a dermatological disease that affects more than 20% of the population and can cause not only aesthetic damage, but also problems with human health and immunity.

It is characterized by discoloration, deformation and collapse of the nail plate, which in medicine is called pathological onychomycosis. Infection occurs when a fungus of the dermatophyte class enters under a healthy toenail. It multiplies rapidly, damages soft tissues and forms white and yellow spots on the nails, which leads to deformation and death of the nail. When a nail is affected and not treated in time, the fungus is transferred to healthy surfaces. All this brings a lot of discomfort to human life. In this article, we will understand the causes, symptoms, how to treat such a fungus and, most importantly, how to avoid this unpleasant disease.

Causes of fungus on toenails

The main reason for the appearance of the fungus is a weak human immune system. When the body's protective functions do not work well, the risk of infection, viruses and bacteria increases significantly. Due to high humidity and lack of proper air circulation, a fungus is more often seen on the toes than on the hands.

Also at high risk:

  • People with poor hygiene. Do not allow your feet to sweat profusely, wet and dirty socks, and walk barefoot;
  • People with pathology of internal organs and blood vessels, HIV carriers. Diabetes mellitus and blood clots in the arteries stimulate poor blood circulation in the legs;
  • People who ignore tight and uncomfortable shoes. Even small corns, micro cracks, and bells on the feet can cause a fungal infection;
  • People, the elderly during hormonal changes in the body;
  • People trying to wear shoes in stores without disposable socks. After all, there is a danger that a person infected with a fungus will try on these shoes before you.

Fungal infections love moist, warm environments, as well as open wounds and abrasions that multiply immediately.

Public places such as hotels, gyms, swimming pools, dressing rooms, showers and saunas are a favorite home for fungal infections. If a person likes to walk there barefoot, the risk of infection is one hundred percent. It is important to remember that fungal infections are contagious and can be easily transmitted through household contact or contact with a person.

Stages and symptoms of the fungus

Unfortunately, the fungus is a rapidly growing infection. Like the roots of a tree, it grows under a person's skin, destroying tissues and surfaces. Usually, the fungus begins its activity with the little finger or thumb, and as a result affects all the nails.

In general, there are early, intermediate and advanced stages, but we will understand the course of the disease a little more using medical terms:

  1. Stage of infection - the fungus sticks to dead skin flakes, eventually crawling to the nail plate. It is not accompanied by any symptoms;
  2. Normotrophic stage - the natural color of the nail fades and turns yellow at the edges, thickens towards the corners. Small white streaks or dots may appear. There is a special smell and feeling of discomfort;
  3. Hypertrophic stage - the nail is completely yellow, deformed, the surface is untidy and ribbed. In most cases, the entire nail plate thickens and the edge itself loosens and wears out;
  4. Atrophic stage - matte yellow or gray nails. The nail pieces fall off, the nail bed has an unhealthy appearance, an empty surface;
  5. Stage - onycholysis - the whole nail plate becomes very thin and then disappears. The fungus can spread to neighboring, still healthy nails.

The skin around the nail is usually red and puffy. The patient notes itching between the fingers, cracks are observed, accompanied by pain. Often, in the final stage, the fungus that enters the nail bed dies under the influence of immunity. Blood poisoning can occur when the body's protective functions are weakened or left untreated.

Types of mushrooms

The most common fungi that cause onychomycosis are dermatophytes. They affect more than 85% of infections. And accordingly, Candida class fungi (yeast) and mold fungi are less common among pathogens. Also, sometimes there are several types of nail infections.

Let's take a closer look at each type.

Fungi Dermatophytes

There are many species of this fungus. They are famous for their ability to adapt to any microclimate. Living in the earth's crust, animals and humans can be easily infected by "carrier and infected" contact, as in direct contact with the surface. However, this type of infection is rare and usually has several factors before the disease.

The most popular types of dermatophytes:

  • Trichophyton rubrum - first infects the tip of the nail, then smoothly reaches the base. The nail breaks, becomes yellow, thick and lethargic. The surrounding skin is unusually dry, red, and crusty;
  • Trichophyton mentagrophytes are a major lover of humid and warm microclimates. They are usually infected in public places such as showers, swimming pools and saunas. Often causes damage to the thumbs and around. The skin becomes inflamed, itchy, and inflamed bumps form.

It is difficult to treat a fungus that can reach the base of the nail plate. In this case, it is likely to be a complete loss.

Candida fungus

Yeast or Candida is present in normal amounts in the body of all people, but under a number of triggers it multiplies rapidly and can cause disease.

It is mainly familiar to women. Because most of them have had to deal with a disease such as thrush, which is caused by this particular type of fungus, Candida, throughout their lives.

When Candida appears on the nails, it can be safely assumed that the infection is caused by domestic contact, through a specific item (towel, clothes, shoes) previously used by the infected person. And unlike dermatophytes, it first forms at the base and is most common on the nails of the hands.

mold fungi

The most dangerous type of fungus. It can affect not only the skin, but also the whole body.

Infection occurs due to the destruction of the nail, exposure of the nail bed. The good news is that this type of fungal infection is extremely rare. However, if this still happens, it is very difficult to treat with ordinary drugs, and special means are required for mold on the nails.


Since the external symptoms of nail fungus are similar to other diseases (eg, lichen, psoriasis, keratoderma), the doctor prescribes the following tests to confirm the diagnosis of the fungal infection and determine the pathogen:

  • Nail plate microscopy - a laboratory technician prepares a nail scraper and treats it with a special substance to destroy keratin. This procedure is necessary for easier and more accurate observation under a microscope. There is also a shortcoming of this analysis. With its help it is impossible to determine the type of pathogenic fungus. Based on the results obtained, broad-spectrum antifungals are prescribed;
  • Type of cultural research - material obtained by breaking a nail in the laboratory is immersed in Sabouraud nutrient medium, where fungi grow rapidly. The growth rate, color and shape of fungal colonies are determined. Also, using this method, the sensitivity of antibodies to drugs is determined. The disadvantage is that the results of the analysis must be expected within 3-5 days;
  • The purpose of DNA diagnostics is to study the presence of DNA cells in dermatophytes or yeast infections. The most dangerous type of mold can not be identified by this method. The diagnostic result is ready in 1-2 days, and the disadvantage is the high cost of the method due to the use of special devices.

Methods of treatment

If you are wondering which doctor to go to for such a disease, there is only one answer - you need a dermatologist.

In the initial stage, if it is possible to detect the infection immediately, external treatment will suffice. However, if the infection is not detected immediately and the visit to the doctor is delayed for a long time, a complex therapy of a more serious nature will be needed. Nail plate is removed, especially in severe cases of the disease. Sometimes treatment is delayed for six months, and to prevent this, we strongly recommend that you pay attention to the disturbing symptoms in a timely manner and seek professional help immediately.

Diagnosis will determine what type of treatment you need, as it is important to determine which fungus is causing the infection. Drugs for the treatment of nail fungus are divided into 2 groups:

  • Topical preparations - this group includes therapeutic ointments, creams, varnishes and gels. They are usually used in the early stages of treatment, when the disease is detected in time;
  • Antifungals are systemic antifungal drugs used orally. It is available in the form of tablets and capsules that can eliminate the activity of the fungus. They have the ability to prevent the spread of mycosis, have a long-term effect, which prevents the recurrence of the disease.

These groups of drugs can be prescribed individually or as a complex therapy, depending on the nature and severity of the infection.

Doctors give additional recommendations:

  • Use only personal hygiene items and household items (clothes, towels, dishes, etc. );
  • Follow the individual diet prescribed by your doctor;
  • Treat and ventilate the shoes so that the fungus does not create a favorable environment for reproduction during treatment;
  • Be sure to take vitamin complexes to strengthen the immune system. both during and after treatment.

Antifungal ointments

In the treatment of fungal infections of the toenails, it is important to use topical preparations only if the damage is not serious and occupies less than half of the nail plate. Or in cases of individual intolerance to the components of systemic drugs. After all, drugs such as antifungal ointments do not penetrate enough into the tissues and therefore do not have the ability to effectively and completely cure a person. But as an additional therapy to eliminate and prevent external symptoms, they are excellent.

Remember that for a start, the affected part of the nail is cut, and then not only the nail, but also the soft tissues, the surrounding areas should be treated with ointment.

Topical therapy for toenail fungus will be effective in the presence of such means:

  • Hypoallergenic drugs with minimal side effects are well tolerated by the body. It contains a non-toxic component such as a polyene antibiotic (tetraene polyene group). The ointment is usually applied in a thin layer to the affected areas in a course of 2 to 4 weeks, depending on the stage of the disease;
  • The drug has a retention effect, which can penetrate deep into the skin. Also apply in a thin layer on dry affected areas. The course lasts at least two months.

Special varnishes

Nail polish for toenail fungus is the most convenient tool to use, but it is only suitable in the early stages of fungal infection. Apply to affected nails and use only two or three times a week. Here are some examples of proven and effective varnishes:

  • However, the active component is a derivative of morpholine, which can rapidly destroy up to 10 infectious agents, destroying them at the cellular level. Medicinal nails are pre-evaporated and applied in one course until complete remission;
  • However, the active ingredient is able to destroy 58 species of fungal pathogens. The course of treatment is 3 months with a gradual decrease in the frequency of use per week (in the first month the varnish is applied every day, then twice a week and in the final stage only once a week).


Folk remedies fight the symptoms of fungal infections well, but they only work in combination with medications.

There are many natural ingredients, natural remedies and treatments that do not require large expenditures. It can be various herbs, potassium permanganate, iodine and vinegar for baths, solutions, tea tree and eucalyptus oils. However, because nail fungus is a complex and long-term disease, they also require the permission of a dermatologist. After all, there is a great risk of causing complications and then losing the nail completely and forever.

The following alternative methods are often recommended to relieve symptoms:

  • Rub garlic on the affected areas of the nails;
  • Soak your feet in washing powder;
  • Lotions with baking soda, diluted with water (to achieve a thick consistency and apply to the nail for 20 minutes, then rinse with warm water);
  • Invest in socks: nettle, mint, chamomile, sage, propolis (change the composition of the socks daily).

We will get acquainted with the rest of the folk methods in more detail below.

Vinegar baths

Vinegar baths are one of the best folk remedies for fungus on toenails.

Apple cider vinegar and wine vinegar are suitable for recipes. At the same time, it is important to follow the correct proportions and use only natural products without any chemical additives.

  • Recipe # 1: Soak your feet once or twice in water mixed with apple cider vinegar. The duration of the procedure is about 20 minutes, and it is better to extend the course of treatment with daily baths for 2 weeks;
  • Recipe number 2: Dilute 5 tablespoons of 9% wine vinegar in 2 liters of warm water. Steam your feet for at least 30 minutes and then clean the softened layer of the nail plate with a stick. After that, it is recommended to apply an antifungal agent immediately. Using daily baths, prolong the procedure for a month and preferably twice a day.

Tea tree oil

An effective antifungal agent obtained by squeezing the oil from the leaves of the tea plant. It is used by the whole world for the treatment of other pathologies in the form of acne, scratches and abrasions. The following methods are recommended for use:

  1. Steam your feet and lubricate the affected area of skin and nails with five to ten drops of tea tree oil using a cotton swab. No need to wash. Procedure: 3 times a day for at least two weeks;
  2. Add 5-10 drops of oil to a liter of boiling water and keep your feet in the bath for about half an hour. The course can last 2 months.

Tea tree oil is not recommended for pregnant women.

Iodine treatment

The most popular and cheapest method recommended by dermatologists around the world. The secret of this tool is that iodine has the ability to fold proteins. And as we know, pathogens have a protein structure because they feed on keratin - a type of fibrillar protein.

How to treat feet with iodine?

  • Method №1:

    Apply a drop of 5% iodine solution twice a day to the affected nail and once a day to adjacent, healthy nails. After about a week, a painful sensation in the form of a burning sensation will appear, which means that the destruction of fungal pathogens has begun. The course of treatment may take more than a month until complete recovery;

  • Method № 2:

    Steam your feet in hot water, soda and salt bath for 30 minutes (1 liter of water, 1 tablespoon soda, 2 tablespoons salt). Remove keratinized areas with scissors and dry your feet. Then apply 3 coats of iodine solution to each damaged area of the nail (apply 1 coat, wait until completely dry and apply the next). Procedure: once a day for a month.

Children can be exposed to nail fungus

As you may have guessed, a disease like nail fungus can develop not only in adults but also in children.

Children can pick up the fungus anywhere. You can become infected by contact with an already infected person, by not following the rules of household hygiene we examined above, or by damage to the wound, which can later develop into an infection, including dirt.

In children, nail fungus can easily affect one or more fingers and toes. The first symptoms appear as small white or yellow spots on the nail. The infection can occur slowly, spreading to the entire nail and completely changing color. In addition, there is deformation of the nail plate and collapse of the nail, accompanied by excruciating pain.

Symptoms of nail fungus in children

Let's take a closer look at the symptoms of nail fungus infection in children:

  • There is a thickening of the nail plate;
  • Deformation accompanied by brittleness of the nail;
  • In appearance, nails become dull, weak without a natural shine;
  • If the fungus is actively developing its vital activity under the nail, the nail plate may be brown, green, or dirty yellow;
  • With the complications of the disease, an unpleasant odor comes out of the nail.

Causes of nail fungus in children

The cause of the infection, as in adults, is mainly the defeat of parasites - dermatophytes. This type of fungus loves warm and humid environments and is found in large numbers in public places such as showers, baths and swimming pools that can be easily removed. The nail bed is a comfortable habitat for such a parasite, where they can also pass through invisible incisions.

Because the immune system is not yet strong enough and the rules of hygiene are not followed, children are more likely to be at risk of infection.

Treatment of nail fungus in children

The treatment of nail fungus in children is usually not much different from the treatment of the same fungus in adults. It is recommended to pay attention to the symptoms in time and consult a doctor to get a prescription for medication. It is good to use local creams, ointments and varnishes, but they will be less effective in the development of the infection. Therefore, oral medications are often added to the treatment. Such systemic remedies should be taken for a long time until a healthy nail completely replaces an infected nail. However, such drugs have a number of side infections that can manifest themselves in the form of skin rashes, damage to internal organs. It is forbidden to use them for children with liver pathology and heart problems. But all this is individual, so it is very important not to treat yourself and find a qualified dermatologist.

In general, treating nail fungus in children is not as difficult as preventing it. To do this, it is worth talking to children more often about the rules of hygiene.

Fungus on toenails, picture

Nail fungusHypertrophic onychomycosis of the foot - deformed nailThickening of the nail plate on the thumb with a fungusAtrophic stage of the fungus (decay of toenails)The initial stage of onychomycosis is yellowing of the toenails