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What is a Nail Fungal Infection?

What causes a nail infectionWhat is a Nail Fungal Infection? A nail fungal infection, also referred to as onychomycosis, is a very common ailment that affects many adults and a large percentage of the geriatric population. It is caused by fungus, most often pathogens known as dermatophytes, that infect the tissue beneath the nail. It can affect either the fingernails or toenails, but it is much more common on the toes. When left untreated, it can lead to emotional and physical problems and even more serious issues like severe immune system infections.

Nail Fungal Infection Symptoms

There are several signs that point to a nail infection. Most often, the first sign is that the appearance of the nail changes. The nail bed will usually change from clear to yellow or white. In some cases brown and black colors have occured. When an infection is present, it is also common for the nail to thicken or become brittle. In time, it may start to pull away from the nail bed or fall off completely. Eventually, the skin under or around the nail can become sore or irritated, and wearing a shoe may become painful due to excess pressure placed on a thickened nail.

What Causes Nail Fungal Infections

Patients often develop fungal infections after visiting a public pool, gym, locker room, communal shower or sometimes even after getting a pedicure. Because fungus thrives in warm, moist environments, these places are common breeding grounds for the dermatophytes that cause infections. Onychomycosis may also occur as the result of getting a manicure or pedicure with tools that have no been properly sterilized. Closed shoes that do not allow for adequate airflow can cause infections as well.

Nail Fungal Infection Treatments

Historically, nail fungus has been very difficult to get rid of. Because the infection lives beneath the nail, it is difficult for medications to reach the site where fungus is present becuase the nail is doing what is was designed to do, protect you. Topical creams, liquids and gels typically do not work. Oral antifungal medications are slightly more effective, but they can cause serious side effects and can lead to other more serious medical conditions. Recently, lasers have proven to be a more effective method in treating fungal infections. In many cases, they can kill the fungus in just one session, but it still can take up to a year for a healthy nail to grow in.

Nail Fungal Infection Prognosis

In the vast majority of cases, a nail infection is not a sign of a more serious problem, nor will it cause major complications. When left untreated, however, infections can become painful. In people with weakened immune systems, they can also lead to more severe infections in the bone or bloodstream. Additionally, fungal infections on the hands can lead to social or emotional problems. As a result, it is best to seek treatment for onychomycosis.

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