A fungal infection of the nail bed is called as onychomycosis; it begins as a white to yellow discoloration, thickening, and splitting of the fingernails and toenails. Toenails are more likely to get infected compared to fingernails. Usually, the infection is restricted to nails, but sometimes it can spread to the adjacent skin. The untreated onychomycosis can lead to irritation, pressure, and pain due to the thickening of nails. It can affect the person psychologically and socially.
The symptoms of onychomycosis do not develop until the nails are thickened and also vary based on the subtypes of onychomycosis. The symptoms may include:
Onychomycosis is caused by the fungi belonging to the genus Trichophyton. Occasionally, yeasts belonging to the genus ‘Candida’ can also cause onychomycosis with similar symptoms. The fungi feed on the keratinized tissue of the nails, thereby producing the painful symptoms.
Onychomycosis is contagious and spreads from one person to the other through a direct physical contact. It can also spread through indirect contact with the infected person’s clothing, shoes, etc.
Onychomycosis can occur in people of any age but is more common in older adults. The other risk factors for developing the condition may include:
If onychomycosis is left untreated, it can lead to a loss of agility (dexterity), loss of self-esteem, embarrassment and other social problems.
The doctor diagnoses a fungal nail infection (onychomycosis) by examining the nails followed by certain laboratory testing. Laboratory testing of nails is done by examining the nail sample under a microscope to detect the presence of fungi.
Treatment of onychomycosis is a challenging task due to the restricted growth and less blood supply to the nails. The treatment is primarily based on the severity of the infection and the type of fungus. Few treatment options may include:
Due to the restricted growth of nails, it takes nearly 6 to 12 months for the nails to regain a healthy appearance. Even after the treatment, there are high chances of recurrence of onychomycosis along with some other risks.
It is possible to prevent onychomycosis by taking the below measures:
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