Fungal nail infection, also called onychomycosis, are caused by dermatophyte fungi and are more common in elderly patients. Causes include failure to maintain good foot hygiene, with communal showers and failure to dry the feet thoroughly being other contributing factors. As with other nail conditions, a patient is more likely to develop a fungal nail infection if they already suffer from pre-existing medical conditions, such as diabetes, psoriasis, poor immune system or poor state of health.
There are several types of fungal nail infection, with varying symptoms, although in all cases the nails exhibit discolouration, with nails appearing green, yellow, white or black. The nails are often thick and brittle, and can become crumbly with parts of the nail falling off. Usually nail infections do not cause pain, although thickened nails cause result in pain when wearing shoes, or the nail bed can become damaged, causing pain particularly when walking.
Fungal infections are difficult to eradicate, but treatment by topical antifungal solution is more likely to be successful if begun at an early stage. The nail should be thinned before application of a topical antifungal agent and the solution applied until the infection is completely cleared, which can take months.