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What is Onychomycosis?

Apr 03, 2017

What is Onychomycosis?

Also known as tinea unguium, onychomycosis is a condition where nail beds are infected by a fungal infection, often by pathogenic fungi like dermatophytes and yeast. Known to be the most common nail disorder, the chances of onychomycosis occurring in toenails are higher than that in the fingernails.  The reason for this might be that it is easier for the fungus to grow on nail beds of the toes since feet are generally enclosed in shoes, thereby keeping them moist and warm for longer periods of time.

Fungus usually thrives in warm and humid places. Hence, the most common risk factor of onychomycosis is wet or sweaty feet or hands that are enclosed for a long period of time. Going barefoot to places with water and exposing your feet or hands to this environment for a long time may also lead to onychomycosis. Some other common risk factors include:

  • Old age
  • Decreased blood circulation
  • Thickness of toenails
  • Excessive perspiration
  • Damaged nails
  • Infected injuries
  • Suppressed immune system
  • Diabetes
  • Skin infections

Starting out as a thickened and discolored nail, the symptoms of onychomycosis worsen as the condition progresses. In later stages, the nails become brittle and may start falling off in pieces and come off entirely. If not treated in time, the disease may progress on to exhibiting serious symptoms like inability to stand or walk due to extreme pain and discomfort, burning sensation (paresthesia) in the hands or feet, emission of bad odor and yellow patches of scaly skin around the affected areas which can hinder with the patient’s social life.

Several types of treatment methods can be executed; depending on the level the infection has affected the toenail or the fingernail.

  1. Physical: If the infection is just at the beginning stage, it can be gotten rid of by just chipping or cutting off the infected portion of the nail. Though in the later stages, the entire nail might have to be removed.
  2. Medications: Infections, if not very severe, can usually be treated via application of ointments to the infected portion. If the ointments fail to work, oral doses of anti-biotic may be prescribed.

Disclaimer: The information given in this write-up is purely for educating the reader. It is not meant to be a substitute for any advice from a medical expert.

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