Like any other place on our bodies -- skin, hair, and teeth included -- the fingernails and toenails are no stranger to potential issues. But are you struggling to determine whether your issue is a nail infection or disease? Here’s how to tell and how to treat it.
One of the most common types of nail diseases and disorders is a fungal nail infection, known clinically as onychomycosis. This nail disease appears when fungi in, under, or around the nail grow in excess. It can spread from other fungal issues in the body, like ringworm, jock itch, and athlete’s foot if they’re not properly treated. Additionally, it can happen if you come in contact with someone who has a fungal nail infection. This can happen at the gym, at a nail salon, or at a pool, especially when surfaces, materials, and tools are not properly sanitized between uses.
Another common type of nail disease is known as paronychia. This particular infection is often caused by biting the nails, cutting them too close, or trimming the cuticles. Both bacteria and fungi can be culprits for paronychia. Frequent sucking on a thumb or finger, biting off hangnails, having hands in water frequently, and having an ingrown fingernail or toenail can all contribute to the development of this nail infection as well.
In the case of onychomycosis, common symptoms include a distorted or misshapen nail, a nail that lifts off from the nail bed,
an odor coming from the nail, a thickened nail, a nail or multiple nails that are white or yellowish in appearance, or a spotted nail.
The paronychia nail infection typically first causes a crack in the nail fold, followed by swelling, redness, and tenderness. This inflammation can also cause a pus-filled abscess on the side of the nail. The finger or toe is eventually very painful to the touch, and if untreated, can make wearing shoes or gloves impossible.
Since onychomycosis is a fungal nail infection, it will only respond to a fungal nail infection treatment. These types of treatments include prescription antifungals like terbinafine, itraconazole, fluconazole, or griseofulvin, which must be prescribed by a doctor. Topical, over-the-counter solutions rarely work for these fungal nail infections, so it’s a good idea to see a doctor right away.
The paronychia nail infection should also be examined by a doctor, who can prescribe a topical or oral medication. In some cases, if an abscess occurs, drainage may be necessary, which should only be done by a professional.
Of course, in addition to limiting your exposure to places and activities mentioned above (nail salons, unsanitary environments, thumb sucking, and biting nails), it’s a good idea to always change out of wet or sweaty socks right away and wash the hands and feet thoroughly, especially after exposure to hot, humid environments.
If you’re in Baton Rouge or the surrounding areas and need help with a nail infection, contact Louisiana Dermatology Associates today for an appointment with one of our board-certified specialists.