Tinea Unguium: Symptoms, Causes and Treatment

Tinea unguium, also known as skin fungus infection of the nail(onychomycosis), is characterized by yellowish or white patches on the nails. Tinea unguium usually occurs on the toenails, also known as tinea pedis. It can cause thick and unsightly nails, and is uncomfortable but not painful. This condition usually occurs in puberty, and the frequency will increase with age.

Tinea unguium can be caused by many reasons such as touching damp surfaces, infected people, or pets. Fungal nail infections are often difficult to treat but are easily treatable if caught early. This article will discuss tinea unguium symptoms, causes, and treatment.

Tinea Unguium
Tinea Unguium: Symptoms, Causes and Treatment

Symptoms of Tinea Unguium

1. Thickened

Nail fungus can cause your nails to thicken because of the build-up of dead skin cells, debris, and fungus beneath them. Your nails will appear thickened and yellow or white. There may also be some black discoloration of the nail if it has been infected for a while.

2. Itching

It’s normal for your nails to itch. If you have tinea unguium, you may experience an intense itching sensation on your toe or fingernails. The itch is often worse at night when you’re lying in bed, listing to figure out where the itching is coming from. The itching, though annoying, is not necessarily a sign that you have nail fungus.

3. Nail discoloration

If the infection is severe, it can be challenging to treat because of the discoloration of the nails. These greasy patches can be yellow or brownish and extend from the cuticle toward the nail root.

4. Nail separation

Nail fungus often causes nail separation. This results from the thickening and hardening of the nail, which can make it more challenging to cut through it. When this happens, the nail can split due to a lack of blood supply or trauma to the nail itself when you scratch an itch.

5. Hanging nails

One common symptom is that your nails will hang down instead of flat against your finger as they usually should be. This is more prevalent in toenails than fingernails.

6. Nail deformities

One of the most common symptoms of nail fungus is a deformity of your nails. This can include brown spots, ridges, bumps, flaky, rough, and brittle nails that break easily.

7. Ingrown nails

When your nail becomes infected, it can cause the nail to become ingrown and appear shorter than usual.

8. Crumbling nails

If you have nail fungus, you may notice that your nails are cracking and crumbling more quickly than usual. The texture of your nails can become rough, brittle, and flaky.

Common Causes of Tinea Unguium

1. Sweaty Feet

It is essential to remember that a humid work environment is one of the leading causes of tinea unguium. If your feet are sweaty, you are more likely to risk infection in the toenails. This means you will often decrease your circulation if you wear shoes that don’t adequately ventilate the feet away from sweating.

2. Nail biting

A common cause of tinea unguium is nail-biting, which can lead to an infection of the nail bed underneath. Nail biting is often considered a bad habit but can also signify stress or boredom.

3. You Have Another Fungal Infection, Such as Athlete’s Foot

Tinea unguium can be a symptom of other fungal infections. You may have another fungal infection in your feet and nails because of sweaty feet or friction on the skin. This is why you should always thoroughly clean and dry the feet, which will help prevent spreading any other infections.

4. Use Communal or Shared Showers

If you are in a communal shower, such as at the gym or college dorms, you can quickly spread the infection to another person who uses that same shower. This is why you should avoid sharing communal or shared showers if possible.

5. Using Poor Hygiene Products

If you have a poor hygiene routine, this can cause your toenails to become infected with fungus. This is why it’s essential to keep your feet clean and dry at all times and clean your shoes regularly.

5. Having a Genetic Predisposition to Fungal Infection

Another possible cause for tinea unguium has a genetic predisposition to fungal infections, meaning it’s harder for you to fight off an infection than others. This doesn’t mean you’re doomed to get tinea unguium, but you might have accelerated fungus growth due to a weaker immune system.

6. Wear Artificial Nails

Artificial nails can easily cause tinea unguium because they often contain wax-based products. This creates a thick and slippery surface that can promote fungus growth.

7. Not Treating Your Nails Properly

It’s essential to treat your nails regularly with a protective coat, medicating and moisturizing to keep them from becoming thick and crusty. If you don’t properly take care of yourself, you will not be able to fight off infections such as tinea unguium.

Diagnosis of Tinea Unguium

To make an accurate diagnosis of tinea unguium, a medical professional will do a thorough examination. They will run your nails under the microscope, which can reveal whether or not they are infected with fungus.

They may also be able to perform a biopsy on the pin to see if there is an actual fungus growing in the nail matrix so that you know what kind of infection you have.

Treatment for Tinea Unguium

You may not be able to cure your nail fungus without the help of a medical professional. This is why it’s essential to let your doctor know as soon as possible so you can start treatment as quickly as possible.

They will prescribe you an anti-fungal cream that you can rub on the affected areas at least once per day, or even better, twice daily for faster results.

The main point of the treatment is to kill off the fungus and prevent it from further spreading. This is why it’s essential to remain consistent with your treatments to halt further outbreaks and infections.

You should also consider changing certain aspects of your lifestyle to help prevent future infections. This could mean avoiding communal showers or bunking at the gym, wearing well-ventilated shoes that promote circulation, and avoiding nail biting by filing down your nails.

When to See a Doctor

Most people can treat tinea unguium with over-the-counter medications. This is why it’s essential to see a doctor if you’re trying to figure out what you have or if your symptoms become worse.

Doctors can also provide a diagnosis and see whether or not your toenails are infected with fungus, which helps to determine what kind of treatment you’ll need.


Toenail fungus is more common than many people realize and can be challenging to get rid of without the help of a doctor. This is why it’s essential to be proactive about your health and appearance.

By taking care of your feet and nails regularly with the proper hygiene products, you can prevent yourself from getting infected in the first place.

If you do find yourself with an infection, it’s essential that you visit a doctor as soon as possible so that you can get the treatment needed to reverse your symptoms.

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