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What is Onychomycosis?


Mild Case of Onychomycosis

Onychomycosis is a type of fungal infection that affects the fingernails or toenails. It typically causes yellowing, thickening, disfigurement and splitting of the infected nail. When treated early, the infection is primarily a cosmetic concern, but when left untreated, it can lead to pain due to pressure and irritation that occurs as the result of the nail thickening. Infections that affect the fingernails can lead to problems in the workplace as well as psychological or social issues. Toenail, however, are more prone to fungal infections. Half of all disorders of the nails occur as the result of nail fungus.

What Causes Onychomycosis?

Fungal infections of the nails are most common among adults, and they are typically related to a suppressed immune system, diabetes and increasing age. In fact, nearly 90% of elderly people experience nail infections. Adults may also develop nail fungus as a direct result of using communal showers, such as those at a gym, or wearing shoes that restrict airflow. Trauma can also lead to an infection.


Extreme Case of Onychomycosis

Treatment Methods for Onychomycosis

Treating fungal infections of the nails can be difficult because the nails grow at a low rate and receive a minimal supply of blood. Topical antifungals are a common method of treatment. They are applied to the skin and nail and are effective in killing the fungi. Oral medications are also available and tend to be more effective than topical medicines because they work within day of beginning treatment. In serious cases, the nail may be removed entirely. If this is done, however, it is still necessary to undergo topical or oral treatment to kill the infection. Though it is a relatively new method of treatment, laser therapy is also proving to be a very highly effective method of killing the pathogens that may infect fingernails and toenails. Despite the method of treatment that is used, it is fairly common for infections to reoccur, especially among patients who are prone to them.

How To Prevent Onychomycosis

While it is impossible to prevent all cases of nail fungus, there are ways to greatly decrease one’s likelihood of becoming infected. Never go barefoot in places like public showers or locker rooms. Moisture wicking socks help to remove moisture that the fungus needs to grow. Use antifungal spray in shoes, especially those worn for exercise. It is also beneficial to keep the nails neatly trimmed and to keep your hands and feet as clean and dry as possible.

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