Is It Fungus?

Misshapen and discolored toenails can be a source of embarrassment, often because people assume they are caused by a fungus which may imply they are contagious or that they are caused by poor hygiene. In fact, fungal nails are often not caused by a fungus at all.

It May Not Be Fungus At All

There are many conditions which can be mistaken for fungal nails, not all of them are bad or contagious or the result of disease. Pregnancy may make a very common and normal feature of lines and ridges on the nail worsen. If a person bites their nails, then it is possible they will have a large groove down the center of their nail. As people age, their nails can take on a different patina, or lose their patina and become brittle. Ridges can develop and there is a separation of the nail layers at the end of the nail. The best way to deal with this problem is to try to avoid cleaning solutions. Soaking the hands in water only serves to worsen the problem.

But Then Again, Maybe It Is

Onycholysis is identifiable by white or yellow nails indicating a separation of the nail from the nail bed. The white or yellow color is actually air. The best treatment for this is to cut the nails short and don't clean under the nails. Polish them to hide the color if you like, and wait the two or three months it will take for the nail to grow out.

Ouch! I Didn't Mean To Do That

A trauma, like slamming your finger with a hammer, may result in blood under the nail which is called a hematoma. The nail will be red or black and the color can be trimmed off as the nail grows. If you have not had a trauma to the nail and there is a black spot under your nail, a visit to the dermatologist is in order to rule out melanoma.

Bacteria Can Be Made Worse With Water

Green nails can mean you've been playing in the grass or you may have pseudomonas bacteria. These bacteria grow under a nail that has partially lifted from the nail bed and in so doing has produced a green pigment. To treat this condition, trim the nail short every four weeks, don't clean under it, polish it to hide the color if you want, and wait two or three months until the nail grows out. Water is the biggest irritant to this condition, so as much as possible keep your hands out of water-using gloves can help. Be sure to thoroughly dry the nail after bathing and if the problem continues, check in with the doctor for a prescription treatment.

Various Skin Disorders Can Cause Nail Problems

Pitted nails may be caused by psoriasis or other skin problems that affect the skin behind the nail. Psoriasis may turn the nails a tan color. Paronychia, the swelling and redness of the skin around the nail is an infection that begins at the cuticle. If it is acute, then bacteria may be the cause and you may need the doctor to drain the infection. A chronic infection can be caused by yeast and occurs when the cuticle becomes inflamed or irritated. Keeping the skin dry and out of water is the first line of defence and the use of a steroid or hydrocortisone cream can be a successful treatment. If the inflammation continues, the doctor may prescribe antifungal medications.