Fungal nail infections are commonly characterised by thickening of the nail, a change in the nail’s colour, and eventually cracks, or partial breakages in the nail. Initially, it may only affect part of the nail, however over time the whole nail can eventually change colour. If a nail changes colour due to a fungal infection, the discoloration tends to first appear as a creamy white colour, before progressing to a yellow-brown discoloration. Fungus is a living organism and can output gases during its reproductive growth cycles These gases cause fungal infections to produce an unpleasant odour as the fungus progresses over the whole nail. Other symptoms, if the nail is left untreated, include the nail lifting off from the nail bed and fungus spreading over the other nails, or nail inflammation (paronychia).This is when the nail becomes brittle and the shape begins to become distorted.
Whilst the symptoms above are the most common, fungal nail infections can present in a variety of ways. There are 4 other common types of nail fungus:
- Distal or lateral subungual onychomycosis: (most common) Fungus Dermatophyte (which feeds on Keratin) affecting the nail bed underneath the fingers and toes . Yellow in colour and usually appears from the edges of the nail. After some time, fungus spreads to the centre of the nail where it eventually becomes loose from the nail bed.
- White superficial onychomycosis: (less common) Affects mainly toe nails. Initially presents with white spots, which eventually cause the nail to deteriorate.
- Proximal subungual onychomycosis: (rare) Usually affects people with immunosuppression problems. First appears as a white spot in the centre of the nail bed. The fungus then spreads outwards as the nail grows.
- Candidal onychomycosis: (yeast caused infection) Usually happens after injury or infection. Nail appears to be more swollen and inflamed, and in time may entirely detach from the nail bed.