Fungi that are already present in or on your body can cause nail infections. If you have come in contact with someone else who has a fungal infection, it may have spread to you. According to the American Academy of Dermatology (AAD), fungal infections affect toenails more commonly than fingernails because your toes are usually confined to your shoes, where they’re in a warm, moist environment.
Red or black nails due to a hematoma, or blood under the nail, usually occur from trauma (like whacking yourself on the thumb with a hammer). The discolored area will grow out with the nail and be trimmed off as you trim your nails. If you have a black spot under your nail that was not caused by trauma, you may want to see a dermatologist or a podiatrist if it involves a toenail to make sure it is not melanoma (a type of skin cancer associated with pigmented cells). A simple biopsy can rule out malignancy (cancer).
Ringworm of the beard, or tinea barbae, is similar to ringworm of the scalp in that the fungus infects both the skin and the hair follicle. The most common type of tinea barbae is an infection deep in the skin that causes very red nodules on the face with pus that drains and tunnels through the skin to other areas close to the nodules. A less common type of tinea barbae is a mild infection on the surface of the skin.
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Conventional treatment typically involves thoroughly washing the feet daily or twice daily, followed by the application of a topical medication. Because the outer skin layers are damaged and susceptible to reinfection, topical treatment generally continues until all layers of the skin are replaced, about 2–6 weeks after symptoms disappear. Keeping feet dry and practicing good hygiene (as described in the above section on prevention) is crucial for killing the fungus and preventing reinfection.
If you love the look of ballet flats, over-the-counter inserts (shown here) may help prevent mild foot pain. Heel pads can provide extra cushioning for achy heels. And custom orthotics can ease a whole range of foot pains and problems. Podiatrists prescribe these inserts to provide arch support and reduce pressure on sensitive areas. Prescription orthotics can be pricey, but are sometimes covered by insurance.
Before taking action and finding the best nail fungus treatment for you, it is important to note that toenail fungus and skin fungus, such as athlete’s foot, often manifest together. For the best results, both should be treated at the same time to prevent an ongoing infection. You can recognize athlete’s foot by the dry, scaling, peeling skin on the bottom of the feet. Your feet may also itch, or exude a noticeable odor.
Dermatophytes — fungus that grows on the skin, hair and nails but don’t penetrate tissues of the body. Athlete’s foot or Trichophyton rubrum is the most common dermatophyte and can actually infect the toenails. Infection can also begin by touching objects that have dermatophytes on them, such as nail clippers, nail files, socks, shoes, shower floors, etc. Dermatophytes are the cause of most fungal toenail infections.
Use tea tree oil. Tea tree oil is a natural anti-fungal. One study showed that tea tree oil may be effective for nail fungus. 18% of patients who used tea tree oil twice daily for 24 weeks were cleared of the infection. To treat nail fungus with tea tree oil, use a 100% solution because lower concentrations have not been proven to be effective for this particular infection.