Nail fungus especially toenail fungus is very common in most people, see more in elderly people. The scientific term of fungal nail infection is onychomycosis.
Can Nail Fungus Spread To Other Parts Of The Body?
Nail fungus can initially occur in one nail and then it gradually spreads to the surrounding skin. If it is not treated then it can spread to the other nails adjacent and if it occurred in the toenails it can spread to fingernails and vice versa. The toenail fungus can also spread to the skin on top of the feet close to the toes which are also called athlete’s foot. This can happen vice versa as well because athlete’s foot is a risk factor for toenail fungal infection. Toenails fungus can also spread to the genital if the underwear touches the infected toenails when wearing which is called jock itch. It also can spread to other people who have close contact with you.
Toenail fungal infection can break the nails and damage the nail bed and the adjacent skin. This can become an easy way for the bacteria to enter the toes and feet. If this happens in a person with diabetes mellitus with complications or in a person who is immunocompromised then the infection can be serious and cause ulcers which will ultimately lead to a loss of the foot or leg. (1)
There Are Four Types Of Nail Infections
- Distal Subungual Onychomycosis (DSO). This is the commonest nail infection. It is caused by dermatophytes. DSO is the infection of the nail and the nail bed by the organism. The infection starts off from the end of the nail bed then the nail turns yellow or white, nail and skin debris build up below the nail. With time the condition gets worst and the nail becomes thickened, breaks up and separate from the skin. The thick nail may cause discomfort when wearing covered shoes. DSO is very hard to treat and completely eliminate, wearing ill-fitting, tight shoes which can worsen the condition and sometimes the reason for the infection as well.
- White Superficial Onychomycosis (WSO). This is the second commonest fungal nail infection. It affects the superficial (top) part of the nail. First white spots will appear on the nail and then the whole nail will turn white and covered with chalky material. The nail will not become thick or separate from the skin. This is easy to treat than DSO.
- Candida Onychomycosis. Candida is yeast, is an uncommon nail infection but it can cause nail and nail fold infections. Candida infections are more common in fingernails, it can involve all nails at the same time and the affected nails might separate from the nail bed. The nails become discolored (white, brown or green), the shape distorts, the nail becomes thicker and signs of inflammation can be present in the affected nails. Therefore, yeast nail infections can be painful.
- Proximal Subungual Onychomycosis (PSO). This also caused by dermatophytes and more commonly seen in people with HIV. PSO involves the skin at the nail fold, thickens the skin and separate the nail from the nail bed. The nail appears white and the base of the nail is white in color. The adjacent skin on top of the foot also can be infected. (2)
There are four types of nail infections which are distal subungual onychomycosis, white superficial onychomycosis, candida onychomycosis, and proximal subungual onychomycosis. Nail fungus initially occurs in one nail (sometimes it occurs in all nails together), then it gradually spread to the surrounding skin. If it is not treated then it can spread to the other adjacent nails and if it occurred in the toenails it can spread to fingernails and vice versa. It also can spread to other people who have close contact you as well.