Do you have discolored and brittle nails? Or are your nails starting to separate from your nail beds? If your answer is yes, then there is a good chance that you have contracted onychomycosis, which is better known as nail fungus.
Causes of Nail Fungus
Nail fungus results when fungi grow in one’s nail beds. The main cause of nail fungus is dermatophytes, which are parasitic fungi that infect our skin. These dermatophytes cause infection to our nails because of their ability to feed off keratin, which is the primary protein that makes up our hair, skin, and nails. Because the keratin is being eaten away at a fast rate, the nails respond by producing the same material at an even faster rate. This process results in thicker nails that eventually get detached from the nail bed. Other effects of nail fungus include discoloration of the nails because of the accumulation of by-products of fungi metabolism, crumbling of the nails, pain in the skin around the affected areas, and a foul odor.
Nail fungus is very difficult to treat, so prevention is a better way of dealing with it. But in order to make sure the fungus would never start to manifest, it is vital to know its causes. The causes of nail fungus include the following:
1. Nail injury. Cracks and breaks in our nails, such as those caused by improper trimming of the nails, may provide the fungus a way of entry to our nail beds. Moreover, it would provide the fungus more area in which to manifest and grow. Another usual cause of nail cracks is when the nail goes through trauma, like when something hits the nail really hard. When this happens, the space between the nail plate and nail bed increases, giving the fungus more room for growth.
2. Warm and moist conditions. These conditions could be found in several places, like public shower areas, locker rooms, and even in the insides of your shoes. Such environments would only provide a good breeding ground for the fungus.
3. Decreased immunity. People who are not eating right or undergoing a lot of stress generally have weaker immune systems. Also, those who have health disorders that affects the immune system, such as HIV and diabetes, are prone to having nail fungus.
4. Inefficient blood circulation. If there is not enough blood flow in an area, the immune system won’t be able to do its function properly in that area. Insufficient blood flow would also cause the nails to have poor nutrition, making them more easily traumatized. This may then result to nail fungus infection.
Risk Factors Associated with Nail Fungus
Several risk factors are known to heighten the possibility of contracting nail fungus. According to studies, the risk of getting nail fungus increases with age because of the difference in skin thickness among the different age groups. As one ages, his/her nails tend to grow at a slower rate and thickens. Also, gender plays a role in catching nail fungus. Men are more prone to this infection than women are. Other risk factors include smoking, perspiring heavily, and family history.