Nail fungus

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

It is characterized by a change in the color of the nail plate, its deformation and crumbling, in medicine this pathology is called onychomycosis. Infection occurs when a fungus from the dermatophyte class enters under a healthy nail. It multiplies quickly, damages soft tissues and creates stains on white and yellow nails, which additionally provokes deformation and death of the nail. When one nail is affected, the fungus is transmitted to healthy surfaces by untimely treatment. All this brings considerable discomfort into a person’s life. In this article we will understand the causes, symptoms, how to cure such a fungus and, most importantly, how to avoid this unpleasant disease.

Causes of toenail fungus

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. Fungus on the toes occurs more often than on the hands, due to high humidity and lack of necessary air circulation.

Also at high risk are:

  • People with poor hygiene. Do not allow intense sweating of the feet, wet and dirty socks, walking barefoot without slippers;
  • People with pathologies of internal organs and blood vessels, carriers of HIV. Diabetes mellitus and blood clots in the veins cause poor blood circulation in the legs;
  • People who ignore tight and uncomfortable shoes. Even minor corns, microcracks, and calluses on the feet can cause a fungal infection;
  • People in the period of hormonal changes in the body, the elderly;
  • People try on shoes in stores without disposable socks. After all, there is a danger that a person infected with the fungus has tried on these shoes before you.

Fungal infections prefer moist, warm environments, as well as open wounds and scratches where they can instantly multiply.

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

Stages and symptoms of the fungus

Unfortunately, the fungus is a fast-growing infection. Like the roots of a tree, it grows under a person's skin, destroying tissues and surfaces. Usually the fungus starts its activity with the little finger or thumb, eventually affecting all the nails.

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

  1. Stage of infection - the fungus sticks to dead skin scales, and eventually drains to the nail plate. It is not accompanied by any symptoms;
  2. Normotrophic phase - the natural color of the nail fades and becomes yellow at the edges, thickening towards the corners. Small white streaks or dots may appear. There is a specific smell and a feeling of discomfort;
  3. Hypertrophic phase - the nail becomes completely yellow, deformed, the surface is untidy and ribbed. In most cases, the entire nail plate thickens, and the edge itself becomes loose and flaky;
  4. Atrophic stage - dark yellow or gray nails. The nail pieces fall off, the nail bed has an unhealthy appearance, a loose surface;
  5. Phase - onycholysis - the whole nail plate becomes very thin and then disappears. Fungi can migrate to adjacent, still healthy nails.

The skin around the nail itself is usually red and flaky. The patient notices itching between the fingers, cracks are noticed, followed by pain. Often, in the last stage, the fungus, which enters the nail bed, dies under the influence of immunity. But if the body's protective functions are weakened or treatment is not carried out, blood poisoning can occur.

Types of mushrooms

The most popular among the causes of onychomycosis are fungi - dermatophytes. They affect more than 85% of infections. And, accordingly, fungi of the Candida class (yeast) and molds are much rarer among pathogens. Also, sometimes there are cases of nail infection with several types at once.

Let's take a closer look at each species.

Fungi Dermatophytes

There are many species of this fungus. They are popular because they can adapt to any microclimate. Living in the ground cover, they can easily infect animals and people through direct contact on the surface, as well as through the "carrier and infected" relationship. However, this type of infection is rare, and usually the disease is preceded by several factors.

The most famous types of dermatophytes:

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

It is difficult to cure a fungus that has managed to reach the base of the nail plate. In this case, there will most likely be a complete loss.

Candida fungus

Yeast or Candida are present in normal amounts in the bodies of all people, but under numerous triggers they can multiply rapidly and cause disease.

Mostly known to women. Because many of them have had to deal with such a disease in their lives as thrush, caused by this type of fungus from the Candida class.

In cases where Candida has appeared on the nails, it can be safely assumed that the infection occurred at home, through a certain item that the infected person previously used (towel, laundry cloth, shoes). And it is formed, unlike dermatophytes, initially in the base and is most often found on the fingernails.

mold mushrooms

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

The infection occurs due to the destruction of the nail, exposure of the nail bed. The good news is that infection with this type of fungus occurs in extremely rare cases. But if this still happens, it is very difficult to treat with conventional remedies and requires special remedies for mold on the nails.


Because the external symptoms of nail fungus can be similar to other diseases (such as ringworm, psoriasis, keratoderma), in order to confirm the diagnosis of fungal infection and determine the cause, the doctor prescribes such studies:

  • Nail plate microscopy - a laboratory assistant makes a nail scraper and treats it with a special keratin-destroying substance. This procedure is necessary for easier and more accurate observation under a microscope. There is also a lack of this analysis. With its help, it is impossible to determine the type of fungus pathogen. Based on the obtained results, extensive antifungal drugs are prescribed;
  • Cultural type of study - in the laboratory, the material obtained by nail scraping is dipped for cultivation in Sabouraud nutrient medium, where the fungus grows rapidly. The fungus is determined by the growth rate, color and shape of its colonies. Also, this method determines the sensitivity of antibodies to treatment drugs. The disadvantage is that the result of the analysis must be expected in 3-5 days;
  • The purpose of DNA diagnostics - nail scraping is studied for the presence of DNA cells in it fungal infections of the class of dermatophytes or fungi. The most dangerous type of mold cannot be determined by this method. The diagnostic result is ready after 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 consult because of this disease, the answer is only one - you need a dermatologist.

In the initial stage, if it was possible to immediately identify the infection, external treatment will be sufficient. But if the infection is not detected immediately and the visit to the doctor is postponed for a long time, a complex therapy of a more serious nature will be needed. In particularly severe cases of the disease, the nail plate is removed. Sometimes the treatment is postponed for six months, and in order to prevent that, we recommend that you pay attention to the disturbing symptoms in time and seek the help of a specialist immediately.

The diagnosis will determine what kind of treatment you need, because it is important to determine which fungus caused the infection. Drugs in the treatment of toenail fungus are divided into 2 groups:

  • Topical preparations - this group includes therapeutic ointments, creams, varnishes and gels. They are usually used in the initial phase of treatment, when the disease is detected in time;
  • Antifungals are systemic antifungal drugs that are administered orally. Available in the form of tablets and capsules that can eliminate fungal activity. They have the ability to block the spread of mycosis, have a long-lasting effect, thus preventing the recurrence of the disease.

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

Doctors also give additional recommendations:

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

Antifungal ointments

In the treatment of toenail fungus, it is important to use topical preparations, only in cases when the lesion 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 for the alleviation of external symptoms and prevention, they are excellent.

It must be borne in mind that the affected part of the nail is cut off first, and then not only the nail, but also the soft tissues, the areas around it should be treated with ointment.

Topical therapy will be effective with the participation of such drugs for toenail fungus:

  • Hypoallergenic drug with minimal side effects, well tolerated by the body. The composition contains such a non-toxic component as a polyene antibiotic (a group of tetraene polyenes). The ointment is applied in a thin layer on the affected areas, usually for 2 to 4 weeks, depending on the stage of the disease;
  • The preparation capable of penetrating deep into the skin has a storage effect. Use in a thin layer, on dry affected areas. The course lasts at least two months.

Special varnishes

Fungus nail polishes are the most suitable means for use, but they are also suitable only in the early phase of fungal infection. They only need to be used two to three times a week, by applying to the affected nails. Here are examples of proven and effective varnishes:

  • The active component of the varnish is a derivative of morpholine, which can quickly destroy up to 10 types of infectious agents, destroying them at the cellular level. The drug is applied, previously steaming the nails, in the course of complete remission;
  • The active substance of the varnish can destroy 58 species of fungal pathogens. The course of treatment is 3 months, with a gradual decrease in the frequency of use per week (the first month the varnish is applied every other day, then twice a week and in the last phase only once a week).


Folk remedies cope well with the symptoms of fungal infections, but work only in combination with drugs.

There are many natural ingredients, natural remedies and treatment methods that do not require large costs. These can be various herbs, potassium permanganate, iodine and vinegar for baths, solutions, tea tree and eucalyptus oils. But as nail fungus is a complex and long-lasting disease, it needs the approval of your dermatologist. After all, there is a great risk of allowing complications and then completely and permanently losing the nail.

The following alternative methods are often recommended to relieve symptoms:

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

In the following, we will get acquainted in more detail with other folk methods.

Vinegar baths

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

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

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

Tea tree oil

An effective remedy against fungi that is obtained by pressing the oil from the leaves of the tea plant. It is used worldwide to treat other pathologies, in the form of acne, scratches and scratches. It is recommended for use in the following ways:

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

Tea tree oil is not recommended for pregnant women.

Iodine treatment

The best known and cheapest method recommended by dermatologists around the world. The secret of this tool is that iodine has the ability to bend 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 number 1:

    Apply one drop of 5% iodine solution on the affected nail 2 times a day and once a day on adjacent, healthy nails. After about a week, a painful sensation will appear in the form of a burning sensation, which will mean that the destruction of fungal pathogens has begun. The course of treatment can be longer than a month, until complete recovery;

  • Method number 2:

    Steam your feet in a bath with warm water, soda and salt for 30 minutes (1 liter of water, 1 tablespoon of baking soda, 2 tablespoons of salt). Remove keratinized parts with scissors and dry your feet. Then apply 3 coats of iodine solution to each affected area of the nail (apply 1 coat, wait for it to dry completely and apply next). Course of the procedure: once a day for a month.

Children can be exposed to nail fungus

As you might have guessed, such a disease as toenail fungus can develop not only in adults but also in children.

Children can pick up the causative agent of the fungus anywhere. You become infected by contact with an already infected person, a household case of poor hygiene, which we have previously examined, or an injury by dirt entering the wound, which can later develop into an infection.

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, eventually spreading to the entire nail and completely changing its color. In addition, there is deformation of the nail plate and crumbling of the nail, followed by unbearable pain.

Symptoms of nail fungus in children

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

  • There is a thickening of the nail plate;
  • Deformation of the nail, followed by its fragility;
  • In appearance, the nails become dull, weak, without natural shine;
  • If the fungus actively develops its vital activity under the nail, the nail plate may turn 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, mainly lies in the defeat of parasites - dermatophyte fungi. This type of fungus loves warm and humid environments and is found in large numbers in public places such as showers, bathtubs and swimming pools, where it is easy to pick up. The nail bed is a pleasant habitat for such parasites, where they can pass through invisible cuts.

Children are more often at risk of infection because their immune system is not yet strong enough and due to non-compliance with the rules of hygiene.

Treatment of nail fungus in children

Methods of treating nail fungus in children usually do not differ much from treating the same fungus in adults. It is recommended to pay attention to the symptoms in a timely manner and consult a doctor in order to obtain a prescription for medication. It is best to use local creams, ointments and varnishes, but their effectiveness in the development of the infection will be very small. Therefore, oral medications are often added to the treatment. Such systemic medications need to be taken for a long time, until a healthy nail completely replaces an infected one. However, such drugs have a number of side effects, which can manifest themselves in the form of skin rashes, damage to internal organs. It is forbidden to use them for children with liver pathologies, heart problems. But it’s all individual, so it’s so important not to self-medicate and find a qualified dermatologist.

In general, it is not as difficult to treat fungal nail diseases in children as it is to prevent them. To do this, it is worth talking to children more often about the rules of hygiene.

Nail fungus, photo

Nail fungusHypertrophic onychomycosis of the foot - deformed nailThickening of the nail plate on the big toe with the fungusAtrophic stage of the fungus (falling off a piece of toenail)The initial stage of onychomycosis - yellowing of the toenails