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The difference between nail fungus and nail discoloration


There are many reasons why your nails might look discoloured or damaged. You might have a Nail fungus infection called onychomycosis, also known as nail fungus. Or you may have an underlying medical condition that’s causing yellowish marks on your nails. It’s important to know the difference between these two conditions so you can get the right nail fungus treatment.

What is nail fungus?

Nail fungus is a fungal infection that affects the nail plate. It’s also known as onychomycosis. Nail fungus can be found on fingernails and toenails, though it more commonly affects toenails. The most common symptoms of nail fungus include discoloration, thickening, crumbling and brittleness of the nails. If left untreated for a long period of time, your nails may become permanently damaged or even fall off completely.

People who are more susceptible to nail fungus include those with diabetes, psoriasis and athletes who wear tight-fitting shoes.

There are many types of fungi that can cause nail fungus, including dermatophytes, Candida albicans and Aspergillus. Fungi thrive in warm, moist areas and enter the body through open wounds or small cracks in your skin.

decorative picture of a foot and bacteria surrounding it

What is nail discoloration?

Nail discoloration is a common problem that can be caused by a nail fungus infection, trauma, or other conditions. Nail discoloration is especially likely to occur in older people who have diabetes or other circulatory problems. If you’re concerned about your nails, consult with a podiatrist or dermatologist to get tested for fungal infections and determine if there has been trauma that may have caused nail discoloration.

After determining the cause of your nail discoloration, you can treat it with topical ointments and creams—as well as oral medications if necessary (your doctor will decide which nail fungus treatment is best for you).

Is nail fungus contagious?

This is a common question, and the answer is yes. Nail fungus is contagious; but it is not caused by an infectious agent like a virus or bacteria. Instead, it’s caused by a fungus that lives on your skin.

Nail fungus can be passed from person to person, but this happens only when you share personal items such as combs or nail clippers that have been in contact with the infected person’s nails.

A common nail fungus infection found on the feet is called Athlete’s Foot. This infection affects the skin of the feet and is primarily spread by walking bare foot on an infected surface. Examples of such areas include locker rooms, swimming pool decks, saunas, or other public places where shoes aren’t typically worn.

decorative picture of a person cleaning away germs

What do the symptoms of nail fungus look like?

  • Yellowing of the nail
  • Thickening of the nail
  • Darkening of the nail
  • Brittle, crumbling nails
  • Pain in toe or finger
  • Swelling of the toe or finger (painfully)

Can you prevent nail fungus?

If you’ve been diagnosed with nail fungus, the best way to prevent it is by keeping your feet clean and dry. Use a foot bath with antifungal powder to soak your feet daily and trim your nails regularly (fingernails should be trimmed at least every two weeks). Also ensure that shoes fit properly, as tight-fitting shoes can cause friction on your toes that can lead to discoloration or infection.

You may also consider wearing moisturizers after bathing if you have dry skin; this will help keep the moisture in your skin so that it doesn’t crack or become flaky.

How can you tell if you have nail discoloration or nail fungus?

Nail discoloration is a common condition that can be caused by many things, including:

  • Acrylic nails
  • Chemicals from nail polish remover
  • Constantly wearing shoes and/or gloves (the constant pressure of these items on your hands can cause the skin to turn white)
  • Psoriasis or eczema (both of these conditions cause redness in the skin around your fingernails)

Nail fungus on the other hand isn’t something that affects everyone; it’s more common among people who have diabetes or poor circulation in their feet.

decorative picture of microscopic germs and bacteria

What are treatment options for fingernail or toe nail fungus?

  • Determine the severity of your nail fungus. Mild cases of fingernail or toe nail fungus may be treated with over-the-counter antifungal medications, but you’ll need to see a doctor if it’s more severe and they will be able to suggest the best nail fungus treatment.
  • Talk to your doctor about prescription antifungal medications, which can cure the infection and help prevent it from returning. Some examples include:
  • Oral medication—This type is taken by mouth and usually comes in pill form. It is usually taken daily for 12 weeks or longer depending on how severe your condition is (and whether or not you have diabetes).
  • Topical medication—This type is applied directly onto the affected area; it often comes as a cream or lotion that should be applied three times per week for several months until there are no more signs of fungal growth

Excilor nail fungus treatment

The most important constituent of toe and finger nails is keratin, which most anti-fungal preparations are unable to penetrate. In most cases fungi grow underneath the nail, which makes it difficult to treat.

Excilor controls the micro-environment of the nail by acidifying the nail bed. Excilor nail fungus treatment is able to penetrate the nail, so the nail is treated from the inside out. It usually takes a few months before an affected nail looks completely healthy again. On average, a toenail grows 1.5 mm in one month. Excilor rapidly lowers the pH of the nail, creating an environment that is hostile to fungal growth. However, the damaged nail needs time to grow out.

Excilor nail fungus treatment is most effective when used in conjunction with the Excilor Cleansing and Moisturizing Soap. Apply Excilor to the affected area, let it dry, then apply a second thin layer. Repeat this process for seven days. Do not wash your feet for at least 24 hours after applying Excilor; doing so will remove the medication from your skin and decrease its effectiveness.

decorative picture of a warning sign for no germs allowed

If you think you have nail fungus, it’s important to schedule an appointment with your doctor.

If you think you have toe nail fungus, it’s important to schedule an appointment with your doctor. The best nail fungus treatment is usually a combination of prescription medications and topical medications.

In addition to causing discoloured nails, nail fungus can also cause pain or discomfort. If you’re experiencing any of these symptoms, see your doctor for treatment options that will help make sure the infection is cleared up quickly and effectively—and that your nails look their best once again!


If you think you have nail fungus, it’s important to schedule an appointment with your doctor.

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