Toenail fungus can be sneaky, and come on slowly, so many may not be aware of the signs and symptoms of a developing nail issue before it is severe.
Toenail fungus signs can often start out as something you may think nothing of or consider a normal change in your nail like incremental thickening.
Knowing the first warning signs of a toenail fungus can help you get control over it before it spreads or worsens.
Read on for 9 signs of a developing toenail fungus that you should be keeping an eye out for.
- Color changes
Changes in toenail color can be a clear sign that something is going on under those nails.
Toenail fungus can cause funky colors ranging from a slight yellowing to a chalky white, brown, or even black.
These color changes may occur over the entire nail, or just in certain sections. Colored stripes, marks, or blotches can help pinpoint exactly where the fungus is growing.
If left untreated, the nail discoloration can spread to the entire nail or even other nails on your feet.
- Nails becoming thicker and harder
Nails do naturally become thicker as we age, so this can be a tough one to identify.
Since you likely trim your toenails regularly, keep in mind how “tough” your nails are to trim from time to time to help figure out if they have hardened relatively rapidly.
An increase in thickness and hardness of toenails can be a sign of a toenail fungus growing.
- Brittle toenails
Brittle toenails can be a big red flag that a fungus has made its way to your feet.
The nail itself starts to break down and can easily crumble when you go to trim them.
- Ragged edges
Ragged edges can go along with the above brittle component of a toenail fungus since the toenails get so crumbly that they are losing bits and pieces off of the ends when you walk, run, or exercise.
When you trim a healthy nail, you are likely to see a clean-cut straight across that stays put until you are ready for your next toenail trim.
With toenail fungus, the tip of your nail can start looking jagged and even become thinned out in spots.
- Pain in the toenail area
Pain does not always come along with a toenail fungus, but since it can set off a cascade of inflammation, pressure, or pain from a toughened or weakened protective nail layer — some people may experience considerable discomfort with a toenail fungus.
If you are having pain around your nail area, check them out to see if you have something like an ingrown toenail (which is not a fungus), or if you are developing a toenail fungus.
While the fungus is being treated, you may be able to reduce the pain by taking over the counter pain medications when you know you are going to be on your feet.
- Nail shape changes
Nail shape changes can occur in more severe cases of toenail fungus, and they can range from a stubby rolled-over look from drastically thickened nails, cracks down the nail, nails lifting up, or crumbling off to form strange shapes.
Your nail shape shouldn’t change too much over the course of your life, so if you see some drastic changes happening to your toenails, it could be caused by a toenail fungus.
- Foul odor coming from your toes
Having a toenail fungus can produce a big of a foul or “off” odor to your nails.
This will usually be stronger than your general foot odor, and it may catch you off guard.
The odor has been described as “cheese-like” in some cases, and it may linger even just after you have showered and cleaned your feet. So, if your feet seem to be a little more odor-forward than usual, look deeper to see if you may be dealing with a nail fungus.
- Nails lifting up
In severe and untreated cases of toenail fungus, the nail itself can begin lifting up and detaching from the nail bed.
In some instances, this may lead to the entire nail falling off. A nail lifting up can be uncomfortable, unsightly, and make it painful to wear certain shoes, walk, or exercise.
If your toenails are lifting, it can be a sign of a progressing toenail fungus.
A toenail fungus can start out subtly and come along with nail signs that many may not be aware of.
If you are experiencing toenail issues like color or shape changes, thickened or brittle nails, pain, or a strange odor coming from the nails — you may be dealing with a toenail fungus. Toenail fungus can be difficult to treat, so consulting with a doctor in person or via a free telemedicine toenail fungus visit will be your best bet to get it resolved.
For certain populations, like diabetic patients, nail fungus can be more severe and require extensive treatment to prevent foot and leg complications and should always be addressed by a professional.