Causes and features of the development of toenail fungus

There is an opinion that toenail fungus is a purely aesthetic problem and cannot harm human health. This position is extremely incorrect, since the toxins produced by pathogenic fungi enter the bloodstream, causing intoxication of the body, and can lead to very serious consequences. In addition, a sick person is a source of infection and can infect a large number of others.

black nail as a symptom of a fungus

Reasons for the appearance

Onychomycosis - a fungal infection of the nail plates on the legs or arms - is most often found in people who lead an active lifestyle: visiting swimming pools, gyms, spas, vacationing at seaside resorts.

Getting on the skin and nails of a person with strong immunity, the spores of the fungus are in a latent state for some time. Their transition to development and reproduction can occur under the influence of such factors:

  • weakening of the body's defenses due to viral diseases,
  • diabetes mellitus, hypothyroidism and other endocrine diseases,
  • stressful conditions, excessive nervous and emotional excitement,
  • varicose veins of the lower extremities, disrupting the normal blood circulation,
  • bruises, abrasions, cracks and other injuries of the feet and nails,
  • long stay in closed shoes, leading to increased sweating,
  • itchy feet with nail fungus
  • wearing synthetic tights or socks,
  • metabolic disorders, obesity,
  • non-compliance with the rules of personal hygiene.

The risk group includes people with chronic pathologies of internal organs - kidneys, liver, biliary tract, as well as patients who take antibiotics for a long time, hormonal drugs, including birth control pills.

Types of onychomycosis

There are more than 500 opportunistic fungi that can parasitize on human skin and nails.

The most common causes of onychomycosis are:

  1. Dermatophytes. These include fungi such as Trichophyton, Microsporum and Epidermophyton. The disease begins on the nail plates, and if left untreated, it spreads to the entire foot.
  2. Yeast Candida. In most cases, infection occurs in places with high humidity - saunas, baths or pools.
  3. Mold, the main sign of damage to which is a change in the color of the nails - from dirty green to brown and black.

First of all, fungi affect the nail of the thumb, and then move on to the rest, least of all on the little finger. All types of onychomycosis are accompanied by severe itching in the interdigital zone, burning and an unpleasant putrefactive odor caused by the breakdown of waste products of fungi.

strong foot odor with nail fungus

Stages of the disease

Any kind of fungus requires treatment with medications. Before making an appointment, the doctor must understand at what stage the disease is and determine the degree of damage to the nail plate.

Depending on the clinical picture, the following stages of onychomycosis are distinguished:

  1. Normotrophic - the initial stage of the disease, in which the nails gradually change color, spots and stripes appear on them. The nail plate still retains its normal shape, thickness and healthy shine.
  2. yellowing of the nail with a fungus
  3. Hypertrophic. The nail thickens, becomes dull and brittle, crumbling along the edges. The patient experiences pain when walking in tight shoes.
  4. Atrophic. In full accordance with the name of the stage, the nail is rapidly destroyed, bending and separating from the nail bed. The plate becomes very thinner, and brownish spots appear under it - foci of pathogen invasion. Ultimately, the nail is completely torn off.

The more advanced the disease is, the longer and harder it is to get rid of it. If at the initial normotrophic stage it is possible to cure onychomycosis with the help of traditional medicine, then in the last stages it is often necessary to resort even to the removal of the affected nails by surgical methods.


In order to start treatment in a timely manner, it is necessary to understand how onychomycosis of the nails manifests itself at each stage.

toenail fungus

At the initial stage, the main signs of nail fungus are reddening of the skin in the interdigital zone, accompanied by slight peeling and itching. Subsequently, the symptoms of a fungal infection develop in the following sequence:

  • the nail fold turns red, swells and becomes painful,
  • the nail begins to change color from dirty yellow to black, depending on the type of pathogen,
  • spots, grooves, tubercles and stripes appear on the surface of the plate,
  • the nail thickens and exfoliates,
  • a white mass accumulates in the subungual space, exuding an unpleasant odor,
  • the keratinized nail plate begins to crumble along the edges,
  • the nail completely exfoliates from the bed and is rejected.
photo of toenail fungus

Feet affected by nail fungus can look extremely unpleasant for others, so the patient is forced to hide them, which is especially difficult in the warm season. In addition, running onychomycosis causes complications.

What is dangerous disease

The reluctance of many patients to go to the doctor in the early stages or the inability to recognize the first symptoms of onychomycosis leads to its transition to a chronic form that can be ill throughout life. At the same time, with normal immunity, the fungus will "freeze" at a certain level, and any of the provoking factors mentioned above can again transfer the disease into the active phase.

The following categories fall into the risk group for complications in fungal nail infections:

  • children under 12 years old,
  • pregnant,
  • women during lactation,
  • people of the older generation.
toenail fungus symptoms

Against the background of a decrease in the body's defenses in these individuals, the disease will pass rapidly, leading to a further weakening of immunity and such possible consequences:

  • allergic reactions up to bronchial asthma,
  • aggravation of the course of chronic diseases of internal organs,
  • intoxication of the body due to the penetration of toxins into the blood,
  • dysbacteriosis,
  • the appearance of new foci of inflammation on the skin,
  • disorders of the nervous system, psychological problems.

Since nail mycosis refers to infectious diseases, not only the sick person himself, but also all his personal belongings are a constant source of infection for others. In the case when onychomycosis is detected in a woman during pregnancy, there is a threat that the unborn baby will be born with a predisposition to allergies.


Fungal diseases of the skin and nails are treated by dermatologists or mycologists. For consultation, you can contact the clinic or the dermatovenerologic dispensary, where these specialists are receiving.

After interviewing the patient, the doctor will be able to draw up a picture of the appearance and development of the disease. The following measures will help to make an accurate diagnosis and prescribe the most effective treatment:

  • visual inspection of the affected nails with a Wood's ultraviolet lamp,
  • taking pieces of skin and nails for examination,
  • general blood and urine tests.

The biomaterial obtained as a result of scraping is sent to the laboratory, where it is studied under a microscope, which makes it possible to determine the fungal nature of the disease.

nail scraping to diagnose fungus

To clarify the type and strain of pathogenic microorganisms, cultures of fungi are placed in a nutrient medium and create optimal conditions for their development. After 10-14 days, by the type and shape of the colonies, it is possible not only to identify the pathogen, but also to establish its reaction to the most common medications.

The fastest and most accurate method is considered to be PCR (polymerase chain reaction). The biomaterial is processed by special enzymes that allow studying the fungus at the DNA level. As a result, the type of pathogen is determined and its exact description is given.

On the basis of the above procedures, the patient is given a final diagnosis and an optimal scheme is developed for getting rid of the fungus as soon as possible.

diagnosis of toenail fungus


Dermatologists promise a positive prognosis for onychomycosis only if the patient strictly follows all their prescriptions and recommendations.

In most cases, complex treatment is carried out, which includes the use of external ointments, creams and varnishes, taking antifungal tablets in tablets and alternative therapy methods.

Keratolytics are used to soften and remove the affected nail plate. You can also get rid of the manifestations of a fungal infection with the help of special varnishes.

In cases where the fungus on the nails has passed into an advanced stage or if there is a threat of developing a secondary infection, which can be caused by pathogenic bacteria that have entered the affected areas, oral antifungal antibiotics are prescribed.

You can speed up the healing process by using traditional healers at home. The most effective, according to patients, are the following procedures:

  • baths with baking soda or decoctions of medicinal herbs,
  • apple cider vinegar lotion,
  • compresses with tincture of celandine,
  • ointments based on propolis and other bee products.

To destroy pathogenic microorganisms, before applying antifungal drugs, nails can be treated with essential oils of cinnamon, clove, fir, oregano or lemon.

Many dermatological centers offer to remove the fungus from the nail with a laser beam. This procedure, which allows you to quickly and painlessly get rid of the affected nail plate, is performed on an outpatient basis.

laser treatment for toenail fungus

How can you get a fungus

Onychomycosis is a contagious fungal disease that is easily transmitted from person to person through household contact.

Most often it happens like this:

  • when walking barefoot in public places with high humidity - saunas, spas, gyms, swimming pools, on the beach,
  • when trying on or wearing someone else's shoes or hosiery,
  • through bedding, towels, washcloths, brushes and other personal items.

When visiting a manicure parlor, it is necessary to pay attention to the disinfection of tools, since in many cases infection with a fungus occurs through the fault of unscrupulous employees of beauty salons.

pedicure as a way to infect nail fungus


In order to prevent pathogenic fungi from multiplying even when they get on the nails or skin, you need to take care of your health and strengthen your immune system by following the following recommendations:

  1. To refuse from bad habits.
  2. Keep fit.
  3. Spend more time outdoors.
  4. Balance the diet by including foods containing nutrients and vitamins.
  5. Observe personal hygiene.
  6. Timely cure all chronic diseases.
  7. Wear quality shoes and hosiery that do not restrict or hover your feet.
  8. Shoes used in the pool, gym or on the beach should be regularly treated with disinfectants.

Having found incomprehensible changes on the skin or nails, you should make an appointment with a dermatologist to start treatment as early as possible and get rid of the fungus as soon as possible.