So, what's going on with my nail?
Let’s start you off with the basics about that discolouration on your nail.
It is more than likely a fungus or a fungal infection (scientifically known as onychomycosis). It’s caused when a fungus infects the space between the nail and the nail bed.
Now, when you think about the word ‘fungus’, you probably picture some lush, deciduous forest with towering trees, underbrush, and lichen on rocks. Basically, fungus is a type of spreading plant – imagine moss or mushrooms – which thrive in dark, moist locations.
So, what does that mean for you? Does having a fungal infection on your toe mean you’re more in tune with Mother Gaia? Maybe...we haven’t got the results of that study back yet. What it does mean is that your nail probably just lifted a little, allowing some space between the nail and the nail bed – the dampness of this area allows the fungi to thrive and thus spread.
Check the symptoms
If you’re unsure if you’ve got a fungal infection in a fingernail or toenail, you should probably look for these things in your nails: discolouration, deterioration, and chalkiness.
Nails that are beginning to change in colour from a healthy, normal tone to a darker yellow/grey colour are a good indication that you may have a nail fungus. If the fungal infection is a little further on, your entire nail can become fully discoloured, look and feel chalky, and begin to fully deteriorate, exposing the nail bed.
Some good news
While the idea of something living and growing under your nail sounds slightly terrifying, rest assured, you’re not alone. Estimates say that around 10% of the population are affected by fungal nail infections – so even if you’re embarrassed about it, that means that there are around six million others in the UK who are in the same fungal boat as you.
While it is more likely for older people to get nail fungus, your risk for it can be increased if you have athlete’s foot, damaged nails, tight footwear, circulation problems, a weakened immune system, or you come into contact with fungi regularly (like public pools, sweat rooms, or saunas).
There are dozens of ways to treat nail fungus (which we go into detail about in different sections on this website), so please: don’t worry. Your nail fungus does not need to be a hideous gargoyle that you hide away forever under socks or gloves – there are ways to treat and correct it.