Is one of you toenails or fingernails brittle? Then you may have a fungal nail infection, aka onychomycosis.
- crumbling edges
- slightly foul odor
- dull, discoloration
- distorted nail shape
- onycholysis ~ loosening of nail
Usually, a toenail gets infected rather than a fingernail because fungi thrive in warm, moist and dark environments. As such, a nail inside a sock, inside a shoe, enveloped in sweat is ideal conditions for a fungal infection to flourish. And under healthy conditions, your body is a host to a variety of bacteria and fungi.
Onychomycosis is most often caused by dermatophyte fungus. Yet, yeasts and molds can also cause a brittle nail infection. These pathogens gain entry through microscopic cuts or a small separation between a nail and its bed.
Some factors that can increase your risk of developing nail fungus are:
- minor skin, nail injuries
- wearing closed toes shoes in humid climates
- wearing non-absorbent socks, shoes that hinder ventilation
- having pre-existing skin condition ~ psoriasis, athlete’s foot
- going barefoot in damp public places ~ swimming pool, gyms & shower areas
- aging because nail growth slows and thickens causing a higher susceptibility to infection
- poor blood circulation reduces immune system’s ability to detect & eliminate an infection
- hyperhidrosis, diabetes, circulation problems, weakened immune system health conditions
Fungal nail infections pose a serious health risk if you have diabetes or weakened immune system, particularly due to leukemia, AIDS or an organ transplant. So, contact your health care provider ASAP upon the initial onset of a nail fungus.
A fungal nail infection is not easily treated and repetitive infections are common. Generally, treatment requires assistance from your health care provider in the form of an oral antifungal prescription drug because OTC creams and ointments will likely fail in eradicating your nail fungus.
Oral antifungals are not advised if you suffer certain health conditions, i.e. liver disease, kidney disease and low or high stomach acid issue, or if you take certain medications. And rare, but serious, drug side effects are a concern as well, such as liver damage or anaphylaxis, marked by breathing difficulty, pruritus, rash and hives. In addition, these drugs may cause minor side effects like headache, dyspepsia, abdominal pain and diarrhea.
So taking an oral antifungal may not be worth the health risks involved. Instead, you may want to consider these other treatment options for your onychomycosis:
- surgically removing your nail
- antifungal lacquer used daily for about a year
- topical antifungal medications applied on filed nail surface
- treating fungal nail infection with laser or photodynamic therapy
And vinegar soaks and regular applications of Vicks VapoRub or tea tree oil are just a couple of unproven home remedies some claim helped cure their brittle nail causing fungal infections.