Onychomycosis is a fungal infection that affects the nails of the fingers and toes. It is caused by various types of fungi and can be quite challenging to treat. Fungal nail infection is more common in toenails than in fingernails and it is estimated that up to 10% of the adult population is affected by this condition.
The infection typically begins as a white or yellow spot under the nail, and as it progresses, it can cause the nail to become thickened, discoloured, and distorted. In severe cases, the nail can even separate from the nail bed. Nail fungus is not only repulsive but can also cause pain and discomfort. Home remedies, OTC medicines and prescription medicines are some of the nail infection treatment options. For any specific treatment, it is recommended to seek the advice of a physician.
Types of Onychomycosis
There are four types of nail infections that one needs to be aware of. These include:
1. White Superficial Onychomycosis
White superficial onychomycosis (WSO) is a fungal nail infection that affects the toenails and fingernails. It is characterised by white patches or spots on the nail surface, which can gradually spread to cover the entire nail. WSO is caused by a type of fungus called Trichophyton interdigitale, and it is more commonly seen in tropical and subtropical regions.
WSO is not as common as other types of nail fungus, but it can be challenging to treat. It typically requires long-term treatment with antifungal medications, which can take several months to be effective. WSO is not considered to be a serious condition, but it can cause cosmetic concerns.
2. Distal Subungual Onychomycosis
Distal subungual onychomycosis (DSO) is a type of fungal nail infection that affects the toenails and fingernails. It is the most common form of nail fungus, accounting for up to 90% of all cases. DSO typically begins at the end of the nail, near the tip, and gradually spreads toward the base of the nail.
The fungus responsible for DSO is usually a dermatophyte, which is a type of fungus that thrives in warm, moist environments. DSO can cause the nail to become thickened, discoloured, and distorted, and it can be difficult to treat. The nail infection treatment for this is antifungal medications for several months to clear up the infection.
3. Candida Onychomycosis
This fungal nail infection affects the nails of the fingers and toes. It is caused by a type of yeast called Candida albicans, which is commonly found on the skin and mucous membranes of the body. Candida onychomycosis typically affects individuals with weakened immune systems or those who have had previous nail damage or injury.
It can cause the nail to become thickened, discoloured, and distorted, and may also lead to the development of painful nail beds. Candida onychomycosis treatment normally involves antifungal medications, and in some cases, the removal of the affected nail may be necessary.
4. Proximal Subungual Onychomycosis
Proximal subungual onychomycosis (PSO) is an uncommon fungal nail infection that affects the nails of the fingers and toes. IPSO typically starts at the base of the nail and gradually spreads towards the tip, causing the nail to become thickened, discoloured, and brittle.
It is more commonly seen in individuals with weakened immune systems or those who have had previous nail damage or injury. Antifungal medications are effective proximal subungual onychomycosis treatment.
Symptoms of Onychomycosis (Nail Fungus)
Onychomycosis symptoms are manifold. It is generally a toenail infection rather than a fingernail infection and the symptoms vary depending on the nature of the infection.
The most common symptoms of nail fungus include thickened nails, discolouration of the nail, and nail brittleness. The nail may become yellow, brown, or even black. The nail may also have white spots or lines, and the affected nail may become thicker than the surrounding nails. The nail may also become misshapen, distorted, or even crumble.
Another symptom of onychomycosis (nail fungus) is a separation of the nail from the nail bed. This can cause the nail to lift away from the skin and become loose. As a result, there may be pain, swelling, and redness in the affected area.
In some cases, onychomycosis can cause a foul odour to emanate from the nail. This is due to the buildup of bacteria and fungi within the nail.
In rare cases, onychomycosis can cause complications such as cellulitis, a bacterial infection of the skin, or osteomyelitis, a bone infection. These conditions require prompt medical attention.
It is important to note that onychomycosis can be mistaken for other conditions, such as psoriasis or eczema. A healthcare professional can diagnose onychomycosis through a physical examination and laboratory tests. If you suspect you have onychomycosis, seek prompt medical attention.
It can be highly challenging to treat onychomycosis (nail fungus). However, several onychomycosis treatment options are available including topical and oral medications, laser therapy, and surgical removal of the affected nail.
Topical medications are applied directly to the affected nail and may take several months to be effective. These medications include antifungal nail polish, cream, or ointment. They are typically used for mild to moderate cases of nail fungus.
Oral medications, such as terbinafine and itraconazole, are more effective in treating severe cases of onychomycosis. These medications are taken by mouth for several weeks or months and work by killing the fungi responsible for the infection.
Laser therapy is a newer treatment option for nail fungus. This involves using a laser to penetrate the nail and kill the fungi responsible for the infection. While this treatment is less invasive than surgery and has minimal side effects, it may not be as effective as oral medications.
Surgical removal of the affected nail may be necessary in severe cases of onychomycosis. This involves removing the entire nail or a portion of the nail, which is then sent for laboratory testing to confirm the presence of fungi. While this treatment option is effective, it can be painful and may require a long recovery period.
It is important to note that treatment for nail fungus may take several months or even a year to fully eliminate the infection. In addition, recurrence of the infection is common, especially in people with weakened immune systems or who are prone to nail damage.
To prevent onychomycosis, it’s important to maintain good hygiene, wear proper footwear in public places, and avoid sharing personal items such as nail clippers and towels. If you suspect you have nail fungus, seek prompt medical attention to prevent the infection from spreading and causing further damage to the nail and surrounding tissue.
Onychomycosis(nail fungus) affects the nails of the fingers and toes, causing a range of symptoms such as thickening, discolouration, and deformation of the nails. While treatment can be challenging, there are several options available including topical and oral medications, laser therapy, and surgical removal of the affected nail.
Prevention is also the key to avoiding nail fungus. Maintaining good hygiene and avoiding exposure to damp environments can help reduce the risk of infection. If you suspect you have nail fungus, seek prompt medical attention to prevent the infection from spreading and causing further damage.