Fungal nail infection


Onychomycosis, also called tinea unguium, is a fungal infection that affects either the fingernails or toenails. Fungal infections normally develop over time, so any immediate difference in the way your nail looks or feels may be too subtle to notice at first.

Who is at risk for fungal infections?

There are many different causes of fungal nail infections, and each cause has a treatment of its own. Although many of the causes of a fungal nail infection are preventable, some risk factors increase the likelihood of developing it. You’re more likely to develop a fungal nail infection if you:

• have diabetes
• have a disease that causes poor circulation
• are over age 65
• wear artificial nails
• swim in a public swimming pool
• have a nail injury
• have a skin injury around the nail
• have moist fingers or toes for an extended time
• have a weakened immune system
• wear closed-toe shoes, such as tennis shoes or boots

Nail infections occur more often in men than in women, and the infections are found in adults more often than in children. If you have family members who often get these types of fungal infections, you’re more likely to get them as well. Older adults are at the highest risk for getting fungal infections of the nails because they have poorer circulation and their nails grow more slowly and thicken as they age.

What does it look like?

A fungal infection of the nail may affect part of the nail, the entire nail, or several nails.

Visible signs of a fungal nail infection include:
• scaling under the nail, which is called subungual hyperkeratosis
• white or yellow streaks on the nail, which is called lateral onychomycosis
• a crumbling corner or tip of the nail, which is called distal onychomycosis
• flaking white areas on the nail’s surface, which may include pits in the nail
• the appearance of yellow spots at the bottom of the nail, which is called proximal onychomycosis

Common signs of a fungal nail infection include:
• a distorted nail that may lift off from the nail bed
• an odor coming from the infected nail
• a brittle or thickened nail

How is a fungal nail infection treated?

Over-the-counter products aren’t usually recommended to treat nail infections because they don’t provide reliable results. Instead, your doctor may prescribe an oral antifungal medication. You may use other antifungal treatments, such as antifungal nail lacquer or topical solutions. These treatments are brushed onto the nail in the same way that you would apply nail polish. Depending on the type of fungus causing the infection, as well as the extent of the infection, you may have to use these medications for several months. Topical solutions are not generally effective in curing toenail fungal infections. Treatment isn’t guaranteed to rid your body of the fungal infection completely. In almost half of all cases, the fungal nail infection will return. Complications from fungal infection are also possible.

How to prevent fungal nail infection?

Making a few simple lifestyle changes can help prevent a fungal infection of the nails. Taking good care of your nails by keeping them well trimmed and clean is a good way to prevent infections. You should also avoid injuring the skin around your nails. If you’re going to have damp or wet hands for an extended amount of time, you may want to wear rubber gloves.

Other ways to prevent fungal infections of the nails include:
• using antifungal sprays or powders regularly
• washing your hands after touching infected nails
• drying your feet well after showering, especially between your toes
• getting manicures or pedicures from trustworthy salons
• using your own items for manicures or pedicures
• wearing socks that minimize moisture
• avoiding being barefoot in public places
• reducing your use of artificial nails and nail polish

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