What Does Toenail Fungus Look Like?
Toenail fungus, referred to by doctors as Onychomycosis, causes an infection of the nail bed that spreads to the toenail itself.
With the exception of severe cases, you are not likely to see the fungus; however, you will see its effects on the toenail the fungus has infected. In addition, different types of fungus cause varying changes.
Distal and Lateral Subungual Onychomycosis
This group of toenail fungi, referred to simply as DLSO, account for the majority of toenail fungus infections. These types of fungi are usually dermatophytes, which are fungi that occur on many substances and can grow on hair, skin, and nails.In a DLSO toenail fungus infection, the fungus will spread from the person’s skin to the area of the toe under the toenail, called the bed. This causes it to discolor, and the discoloration spreads to the toenail. The exact color varies, though white, yellow, or brown are most common. Toenail fungus infection of this type often begins as just a small spot that soon spreads to cover the entire nail if untreated; however, it can often be treated with a toenail fungus treatment to keep it from spreading and infecting tissue and keratin in the nail.
DLSO toenail fungus infections also cause the nail to become thicker, and it might become bumpy or ridged as well. Severe cases can cause a twisted appearance to the nail if it lifts off of the bed. Typically however, the most common signs there is a fungi infection is rapidly discoloring or the nail - it could be black, yellow or simply lose it's opaqueness. If the tissue itself has become infected - which generally happens, striations, redness, purple or dark (black) coloring can occur.
If left untreated, the nail shape can become irregular, and it may become brittle to the degree that it crumbles. In some cases, the nail may fall or break completely off, exposing the bed and making it more susceptible to infection.
DLSO toenail fungus infections that occur with Athlete’s Foot and other dangers that may cause the toe around the toenail to become dry, flaky, or irritated. If debris becomes trapped under a thick nail, bacteria on the debris can cause an infection, which may lead to a foul odor or even pus.
A toenail fungus infection caused by Candida, which is yeast, causes different symptoms than those of a DLSO infection. As the yeast invades the nail bed and attaches to the underside of the toenail, it can weaken the nail. This can cause the affected toenail to separate into layers that can peel off.
If left untreated, it can detach completely from the bed, which opens it up to bacteria. A Candidal infection can spread to the skin of the fingers past the cuticle, which causes a disease that can lead to disfiguration of the toes on the tips.
Superficial White Onychomycosis
This type of toenail fungus infection, referred to as SWO, is rarer than the DLSO and Candidal infections. Whereas most fungi infect the bed and then spread to the toenail, WSO infects the nail first. Small patches or specks of white are the first sign of an SWO toenail fungus infection.
The specks and patches become rough where the fungus eats away the nail plate, which causes a weakening of the toenail. It can then crumble as a result of the weakening, which opens up the bed to infection.
If left untreated with a nail fungus cream, the fungus can spread to the bed as well.