Nail fungus, also known as onychomycosis, occurs when a fungus infects either the fingernails or toenails of a patient. Fungi can also cause other related conditions such as ringworm and athlete’s foot. When these fungi are introduced to the skin, they infect it and grow into a distressing condition. Some people are hereditarily more susceptible to fungal infections, and others may see the condition after an injury to the nail or surrounding skin that allows the fungus to infect the area. Nail fungus can also be spread by nail salons that do not properly sanitize their equipment after use.
Nails themselves are hardened skin cells, mostly made up of keratin, a protein. These living cells form layers that form the nail. When these cells are compromised by a fungal infection, there are numerous negative symptoms. Beginning usually as a small discolored patch in the nail, the fungus will spread and change the appearance of the nail. The nail may change color entirely to yellow, the layers of the nail may begin to crumble and the edges grow brittle, and the nail itself may become distorted and misshapen. Left untreated, the fungal infection will begin to emit a foul odor, and in very severe cases, the nail will begin to separate from the nail bed. This can be painful, and treatment is more difficult at this stage.