What is the Distinction Between Nail Fungus and Discoloration?

Woman receiving laser treatment on her feet for the treatment of a mild fungal infection in the toenails known as onychomycosis, or to rejuvenate the skin for summer

Picture Supply: Getty / danr13

  • Nail fungus and nail discoloration can current themselves equally, however they aren’t the identical.
  • The distinction usually lies within the root trigger, which can name for medical experience.
  • One is an an infection, whereas the opposite may be on account of an underlying well being situation.

We’ll simply come proper out and say it: a few of us have been responsible of leaving our nail polish on far too long. As a rule, when that polish is then removed, we uncover that what’s hiding beneath is not all the time a fairly sight. If you can also relate, then you definately’re in all probability accustomed to the sheer panic that is usually accompanied by seeing a discolored toenail (or a couple of).

There are a couple of potential causes that may very well be inflicting discoloration, and never all of them look the identical. There may be white spots on the nail, for instance, or darkish spots hiding beneath or close to the cuticle space, in addition to yellowing that might point out a attainable an infection. Nonetheless, there is a distinction between nail fungus and nail discoloration, so in the event you’re noticing any main modifications by yourself arms or toes, it is in all probability time to study the distinction (and make an appointment along with your dermatologist simply to be secure).

To additional assist differentiate between the 2, we requested Jennifer Weiss, dermatology doctor assistant at Marmur Medical, to interrupt down all the pieces you need to know beneath.

The Distinction Between Nail Fungus and Nail Discoloration

“Nail fungus is a typical an infection of the nails,” Weiss says. “All of us have fungus naturally on our nails and our bodies generally, however typically there’s an overgrowth of that fungus, and that’s when you may even see a noticeable change within the look or colour of the nails.” It needs to be famous, nonetheless, that not all discoloration of the nails is because of fungus.

Nail discoloration, then again, refers to any marks that don’t seem translucent or uniform in colour to the remainder of your nail. On this occasion, they “could look yellow, brown, black, and even inexperienced,” Weiss says. These can pop up wherever on the nail, both in spots or vertically alongside the nail.

What Causes Nail Fungus and Discoloration?

Like many fungal infections, there are a couple of method to develop a nail fungus. Chief amongst them? Extra moisture. “Fungus thrives in heat, moist environments, so nail fungus may be attributable to extreme sweating or strolling barefoot in a heat, moist atmosphere like a pool,” Weiss says. “You too can catch it by having direct skin-to-skin contact with somebody who already has a fungal an infection.”

As for the causes of nail discoloration, there may very well be a bunch of causes wholly unrelated to a fungal an infection that causes the problem. “A brown or black streak on a nail is named melanonychia,” Weiss says. “This could all the time be identified by a licensed dermatology supplier as you need to ensure that to rule out one thing extra critical resembling a melanoma. Melanonychia is benign and may be attributable to genetics, trauma to the realm, remedy use, or being pregnant.” Black discoloration of the nail can be attributable to dried blood on account of some kind of trauma — also called a subungual hematoma — so in the event you’re unsure what might have prompted a black mark in your nail, it is best to err on the facet of warning and pay a go to to a medical supplier.

“Nails that seem inexperienced are most frequently attributable to a micro organism known as Pseudomonas aeruginosa,” Weiss provides. Extended publicity to water or soaps and detergents can put somebody at the next threat of creating this bacterial an infection.

Find out how to Inform the Distinction Between Nail Fungus and Nail Discoloration

Whereas Weiss would not advocate making an attempt to self-diagnose at dwelling, there are some tell-tale traits of a nail fungus that may make it simpler to identify. “Nail fungus sometimes seems as yellow, thickened nails,” she says. If you happen to’re nonetheless unsure whether or not your nail matches the invoice, contact your dermatologist for additional testing. In some cases, that will imply getting the nail biopsied and examined to make sure.

What Nail Fungus May Look Like

Nail fungus can present up in numerous types, however a thickened, yellow nail is often a key attribute of nail fungus.

What Nail Discoloration May Look Like: Subungual Hematoma

Find out how to Deal with Nail Fungus and Discoloration

As to be anticipated with any medical situation, many remedy choices for nail fungus embody prescription-strength remedy. “These embody prescription antifungal lacquers or, for extra extreme instances, an antifungal tablet,” Weiss says. “The tablet entails a three-month course and sometimes requires blood-work testing initially and midway via the course. When utilizing the lacquer, it is suggested that or not it’s utilized to the affected nail or nails for an entire yr.”

There’s additionally an at-home treatment that has been confirmed to assist with treating nail funguses as properly: Vicks VapoRub. “The elements of thymol, menthol, camphor, and oil of eucalyptus in medical research have been proven to be efficient,” Weiss says.

For nail discoloration, remedy is determined by the trigger. For instance, Weiss says it’s best to depart the benign melanonychia alone, whereas “melanoma, then again, must be addressed promptly with surgical procedure.” If it’s a regular reason for an damage that bled beneath the nail, one of the best plan of action in that case is to let the dried blood beneath a nail develop out by itself.

Nevertheless, remedy for pseudomonas, the final typical case of non-fungal-related discoloration, is a little more intensive. “[This treatment] entails taking an oral antibiotic that’s inclined to pseudomonas,” Weiss says. “You too can attempt vinegar soaks at dwelling, which entails one-part vinegar and four-parts water, and soak the affected nail or nails in for 10 minutes, twice each day till the an infection is resolved.”

Find out how to Forestall Nail Fungus and Discoloration

“Forestall nail fungus or discoloration from taking place by not strolling barefoot in heat, moist environments,” she says. “It is suggested to maintain your toes clear and dry, wash them each day with cleaning soap and water — taking particular care to wash in between your toes — after which drying them totally after.” Further suggestions embody holding your nails brief and ensuring to sanitize your nail clipper earlier than use.

As all the time, make sure to test along with your physician ought to any regarding discoloration come up.

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