A green nail is commonly referred to as a fungus infection, but it’s not. A pseudomonal nail infection is sometimes called the “greenies” and is caused by common household bacteria known as pseudomonas.
You’ll know you’re infected with pseudomonas when you see a strange green or grey stain on or under your nails. Left untreated, the infection will progress and stain will spread and become a darker shade of green or black – this is due to iron deposits under the nail. Your nails might also become soft, moist and lift off the nail bed.
Similar to fungus nail infections, a pseudomonas infection poses no real danger to your health, but many people treat it because it’s unsightly.
It’s important to distinguish this type of infection from a mold or fungus infection because treatment is quite different.
Since pseudomonas nail infections are caused by bacteria, they are more common than nail fungus infections. The good news is that it is also much easier to treat.
Since pseudomonas is so common, it is almost impossible to avoid. Cooking, cleaning and gardening are all tasks we cannot avoid, and these are the very tasks that expose us to the bacteria. The microscopic organism is found in soil, water, and vegetation, and when the nail is compromised in any way –like cuts, breaks – the bacteria can become trapped in the nail bed.
Women who take frequent manicures at the nail salons and use acrylic nails as enhancements are especially at risk if the surface of the nail is not cleaned thoroughly before attaching the acrylic. Using files and buffers that have not been properly sanitized also increases the risk of infection.
Treating pseudomonas infections is quite simple. If you wear artificial nails, you’ll need to discontinue use until the infection has been properly treated. Trim and clean the nails thoroughly and disinfect the nail plate.
If the infection is mild –meaning the entire nail is not green– you can soak the nails in alcohol, which will dry out the nail and kill bacteria. Most over the counter antibacterial creams and soaps will also help to eradicate the problem.
If the infection is severe, you might want to consult your doctor who will prescribe a course of antibiotics for a few days. After successful treatment, the discoloration will grow outward and upward to reveal your new healthy nails.
Wash your hands frequently with soap or use an alcohol based sanitizer several times a day to keep the bacteria at bay. Use disposable buffers and nail files wherever possible. Ask the nail technicians at the nail salon about their sanitizing techniques or bring your own tools if you’re concerned.
Technicians should also sanitize all surfaces frequently and wash their hands after every customer.
If you’re planning to use artificial nail enhancements, make sure that the nail’s surface is cleaned and dried thoroughly before application. Wait for your nails to heal properly if the surface is damaged from lifting previous nail applications. Never pry damaged enhancement off because it will damage the nail beneath and provide the perfect atmosphere for bacteria and fungus to get in and thrive. Artificial nails are more effectively removed with an appropriate solvent.
So, your green nails might not be caused by a fungus. A true fungus infection is not very simple to treat, and treatment could last for months before you see any improvement. A bacterial infection caused by pseudomonas can be treated and healed within a couple weeks.