black toenailLately you’ve been hearing a lot about a new disease called black fungus. It’s been found in a large number of Covid patients in India. You’ve wondered if this is the same fungus that infect toenails. Or perhaps you even have a black toenail and you’re concerned its black fungus.

Let’s dive in and unpack this. I want to put your mind at ease.

What Is Black Fungus?

Black fungus is a disease also known as mucormycosis. It’s been around for a long time and was found in 38 countries around the world before Covid. Normally India and Pakistan have 140 cases per million annually. But recently the number of cases has skyrocketed in these countries due to Covid. Black fungus cases are not being tracked in the U.S. due to very small numbers.

What Causes Black Fungus?

According to WebMD, this condition is caused by a group of molds called mucormycetes and is found in the environment. Most often it affects the sinuses, lungs, skin, and brain. It’s not normally spread from person to person.

Who’s At Risk For Black Fungus?

People with poorly controlled diabetes are most at risk for this disease. All fungus takes advantage of a weakened immune system to gain entry and thrive.

Other diseases or factors that put you at risk for a black fungus infection are:

  • Covid-19
  • Cancer
  • Organ transplant or stem cell transplant
  • Steroid drugs such as those used in treating Covid-19
  • Injection drug use
  • Poor nutrition

Can Black Fungus Infect My Toenails?

So you still may be wondering whether black fungus is the same as the fungus that infects your toenails?

First, because black fungus is not circulating in the U.S, you won’t come in contact with it. Second, if you did travel to India or Pakistan where it’s currently found in Covid patients, you wouldn’t be infected if you have a strong immune system. Finally, the fungus that infects your toenails is not the same as the one that causes black mold.

You might wonder whether black or discolored toenails mean you have black fungus?

No. If you have black or discolored toenails you’ve either had trauma to the nail from running or other sports or you’ve developed a fungal nail condition. In addition, while it’s very rare it could be a sign of melanoma, a very dangerous form of skin cancer that also affects the nails.

Am I at greater risk for black toenails if I have a compromised immune system?

Yes. People who have diabetes, are older, or have other conditions that compromise their immune system are at greater risk for developing fungal toenails.

Getting Your Black Nails Treated in North Seattle

Have black toenails? First, you need to rule out whether or not your toenails have fungus by having a podiatrist test your toenails. If you do have fungus you'll need to get them treated. Learn more about the treatment of fungal toenails here!

If you don't have toenail fungus, you'll likely just need to let your toenails grow out. However, if they are also painful you may need to have the blood from underneath your nail drained. Learn more about the treatment and prevention of Runner's Toe or Black Toenail here!

Dr. Rion Berg
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A podiatrist in North Seattle treating families for over 40 years.
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Lisa Jensen 01/11/2022 07:15 PM
Tests showed that my fungal left hallux is mucormycosis, and I can't find any cases report of it online or in the literature. I have anautoimmune disease, but I cannot take immune-suppressing meds due to two life-threatening systemic fungal infections in my brain and lungs 12 years ago.
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