What is Nail Fungus?
These lectures are not meant to replace your physician and are simply provided as a free educational service to all our visitors. If you feel that you have a skin problem, please see your doctor.
A very frequent problem that brings patients to a dermatologist is that of a fungus or yeast infection of the nails. There can be cosmetic disfigurement of the nails, thickening of the nails which can result in pain or ingrown nails, and the collection of debris under the nails which can predispose to bacterial infection. This is a difficult problem for the doctor to treat as well as being a source of frustration to the patient.
Nails are a dead hard form of skin much like the horn or claw of an animal. Once a nail is formed we cannot get any medication into the nail from the blood stream. In addition, medications applied directly to the nail are not very effective.
Living skin seems to have in it special "natural tissue juice" which does not allow a fungus to grow on it. It is like the "anti-mildew" agents that are put into leather goods to prevent their deterioration. Skin has an average renewal rate to make a new skin from the "inside-out" of roughly twenty eight days. As the skin reaches the end of this "life span" of being attached to you, it is shed off in flakes - like the dandruff in your scalp. This old "shed skin" is very dried out and has little or none of the "natural tissue juice" left to prevent fungal growth. In this state, it is easily attacked by a fungus. These fungi are all around us, and under the right set of conditions, an infection begins. Some people make very little or a poor quality of the "natural tissue juice". Additionally, we tend to have less of this material in our skin as we mature because the twenty-eight day renewal rate of our skin is prolonged.