Onychomycosis is generally a term used for any infection of a toenail. The nails may also be said to be mycotic for short. They are caused by microscopic organisms similar to those that cause athleteӳ foot. The fungus is living underneath the nail where is has a good environment to live due to the protection your nail gives it from the external environment. This also makes it much more difficult to treat.
Symptoms of fungal toenails may be a very thick, hard, brittle toenails. It may also be discolored more yellow, darker brown, or blackish. Sometimes the fungus is sort of a white powder substance on the nail as well. The texture of the nail may be rough with areas that are split. The nail may become loosened from underneath. Sometimes the fungus affects only one nail, while many times it affects all of them. It is non-painful in many situations, but may also cause severe pain if they become very thick and pressure is applied from shoewear.
You can prevent onychomycosis by avoiding going barefoot in public places like showers, gyms, locker rooms, and around a swimming pool. You should wear proper fitting shoes and change your socks daily. White, cotton socks are the best, as dark synthetic socks harbor a nice environment for fungus and bacterial to grow. Wear gloves while working in the garden.
The cause of a nail fungus is usually from some type of injury to the nail allowing for the fungus which is all around us to invade the nail plate. There is no way of avoiding fungus and microscopic organisms. When injury to the nail is done by trimming too short, dropping something on your toe or other, the fungus can pass the protective barrier of your nail. High use of chemotherapy, antibiotics, and immunosuppressive drugs make you at risk for having the fungus. Those with a compromised immune system, such as diabetes or HIV infection may have an increased risk as well.
Diagnosis of a nail fungus can be done by a laboratory test performed by your doctor. Many times your podiatrist can look at a nail and have a high suspicion to make the diagnosis based on the physical examination without needing a laboratory test.
Treatment of a fungus comes in three forms, discuss these with your podiatrist. Your podiatrist may suggest that keeping the fungus under control with regular visits and professional nail care may be the best treatment for you. It may also be suggested that the entire nail permanently be removed in the same fashion as done with an ingrown nail. When the nail has been removed and the fungus appropriately treated the skin should form a mild callous to give enough protection for the toe. The third option comes in the form of medications. There are both oral and topical medications to either slow down the growth, attempt to stop the spread, or actual medications to kill the fungus. If medications are utilized it usually takes 6-12 months before much result is seen as it takes that long for your nail to grow. Talk to you podiatrist about each option as treatment should be tailored to your medical health.