A nail fungus can cause the nails on the toes or fingers to split and crack. Nail fungus starts with a small spot under your nail that quickly spreads to the entire nail and nail bed beneath. This type of fungal infection can be treated effectively with antifungal medications and creams. Distorted, split nails may be a sign of this type of infection and should be evaluated by a doctor.
The symptoms of a nail fungus that causes the nails to split are ragged split nails, discolouration, thickening and misshapen nails. The nail fungus can cause pain in the nails as well, and there may be an odour present in your nails. Separation of the nail from the nail bed can also occur with nail fungus. If you have any of these symptoms, have your nails checked by a doctor.
The doctor will take a sample of the debris under your nails to analyse. The analysis will determine if there is a fungal infection or a bacterial infection. It is important to determine what is causing the infection so that the correct treatment can be used to clear it up.
The fungi that cause nail fungal infections are from a group of fungi called dermatophytes, but infections can be caused by mould and yeast as well.
The organisms that cause fungal infections of the nails are usually found in moist environments. Showers and swimming pools are frequently the areas where the organism makes contact with your nails. Cuts and separations between the nail and nail bed allow the organism to get into your skin.
The fungus will continue to grow and spread when your nails are in a warm and moist environment. Toenails are particularly vulnerable to this type of infection because they are usually in a dark, warm and moist environment inside your shoes. The hands present a more difficult environment for the organisms to grow and thrive in.
Antifungal medications are usually prescribed to treat a fungal infection that is splitting the nails. Over-the-counter antifungal creams are available, but the results vary. It is difficult to treat the fungus under the nails with this type of medication.
An oral medication is used to treat nail fungus and causes a new nail to grow in place of the infected nail. The treatment with this medication can take months to see results. Keeping your nails free of warm, moist environments prevents infection from spreading while using oral medications.
Surgery is performed when a nail fungus is severe and causing a great deal of pain. The surgery involves removing the nail and treating the nail bed. It can take as long as a year to grow a new nail after surgery. In some cases the entire nail does not have to be removed but only the portion that is infected with the nail fungus.
Alternative treatments for nail fungus include tea tree oil, which has antiseptic and antifungal properties that can fight a nail fungal infection. Lavender oil and tea tree oil combined in equal proportions is also an effective alternative treatment for nail fungus.
Preventing a nail fungus that causes the nails to split and crack is easier than treating a fungus once it has got under your nails. Wear socks that keep your feet free of moisture and keep the nails trimmed. Keeping your feet dry will prevent a fungus from growing into a fungal infection.
If you develop a nail fungus under one nail, wash your hands after touching the area. A nail fungus can spread to multiple nails very quickly.
Wear shoes in public areas such as showers, bathrooms and pool areas to prevent a nail fungus as well.
The fungus thrives in warm, moist environments. Keeping the nails free of these conditions will prevent the fungus from growing into a full blown infection.
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