Thick Discolored Nail...Is It a Fungus?

Onychomycosis is a fungal infection of the toenails or fingernails. This condition causes the nail plate to thicken and turn a yellow-brown color. A white crumbly debris may form under the nail, and it may become softened, crumbly and detached.   The infection can then spread to your skin causing chronic dryness and athletes foot and spread to the other nails.  As the condition advances,  the thickened nails become painful as they press against the inside of the shoe.  Onychomycosis can be embarrassing and often people will avoid sandals or going barefoot in the summer.  

Other nail conditions such as trauma or bleeding under the nail, bacterial infections, or skin conditions such as psoriasis can cause the nails to have a similar appearance to onychomycosis.  The diagnosis of onychomycosis is generally established by taking a small sample for analysis before beginning treatment. Treatment  if detected early can be successful more than 85% of the time. 

Risk factors making onychomycosis include: 

  • Family history  
  • Advancing age
  • Medical conditions which may compromise your bodies immune system. 
  • Initial injury to the nail from a direct impact or repetitive trauma from improper fitting shoes or activity that may cause you to slide forward in your shoe. 
  • Showering in common shower areas —such as fitness clubs may expose you to this type of infection
  • Constantly wearing  the same shoe or wearing a shoe style that does not allow proper ventilation. 

Treatment options vary by individual and severity of the infection. Since all thickened discolored nails are not always fungal related, it is important to see a foot specialist to confirm the diagnosis and determine the most effective treatment.