It is caused by a micro-organism known as Dermatophytes, which works best in moist conditions. Hence, people working longer in wet environments are likely to be infected. Initially such an infection would lead to a discoloration of the tip of your fingernail. It may either appear white or yellow in color.
As the infection spreads deeper, the entire infected nail may appear discolored, thickened and with crumbly edges which may be painful. Your nail may even appear quite distorted in shape and dark in color as a result of the dirt building up below. Over time it may even lack luster and appear dull. Sometimes it may lead to ‘onycholysis’ where the nails may part from the nail bed. This may be accompanied with foul odor and pain on the toes.
It is important to consult your doctor as soon as you notice some sort of discoloration of your toenails. Thankfully, there are a couple of medications that can help treating it successfully. But, there are chances that these infections could recur despite treatment.
In case if you experience pain due to the infection or suffer from diabetes your doctor may most probably prescribe you with oral antifungal medications such as terbinafine and itraconazole for about 6 – 12 weeks. They work by ensuring that the new growth of nail is free of infection thus replacing the infected portion slowly with the healthy one.
Certain over-the-counter creams and lotions which contain urea are absorbed by the nails. The problem with treating Toenail fungus is that as the nails are thick it becomes difficult for certain over-the- counter ointments to penetrate them and treat it. Hence, it is often used along with oral medications. An antifungal lacquer named ciclopirox can be used to treat this infection. The paint is applied on the nails each day and removed after seven days and again started till it’s cured.
In rare cases if the nail infection is very painful and severe a surgery may be suggested. This involves the extraction of the infected nail in place of which a new nail grows. It may be used along with ciclopirox.