Onychomycosis is the name given to a fungal infection of the nails. This type of infection is very common in toenails. The same fungus can infect the soles of the feet and the interdigital spaces between the toes. Organisms are attracted to dark and humid places such as the areas between your toes and inside a shoe. This is commonly referred to as Athletes foot.
Fungal infections can result in the nail being thicken, discoloured, deformed, crumbly and split. These nails often are of cosmetic concern as they are unsightly and they may be painful.
- Fungal nails
- Tinea of the nails
- Tinea unguium
Onychomycosis is caused by “fungal organisms” that infect the nail through the nail bed or nail plate. Fungus can infect a nail previously damaged by trauma; it can often spread from the skin to the nails. Onychomycosis is contagious, so it will spread from person to person.
The main fungi that causes onychomycosis are dermatophytes such as Trichophyton Rubrum, but non dermatophyte fungi such as yeasts and moulds may be involved. These fungi thrive in a warm and moist environment. Therefore footwear and showers are most common areas of concern.
There are many causative factors that put you at risk of developing fungal toenails.
- Trauma to the nail.
- Poor hygiene.
- Working in a wet environment.
- Excessive moisture between the toes, not drying your feet after a shower.
- People with a compromised immune system such as Diabetes.
- Warm, moist environment from occlusive footwear, socks and stocking.
Onychomycosis needs to be clinically diagnosed. Laboratory testing may be required where a scrapping of the skin or nail clippings are taken and sent for analysis.
Onychomycosis is extremely difficult to treat. This is due to the fact that the nail grows very slowly. Treatments work by reducing the viability of the organism, therefore reducing the spread of the fungus. The nail has to grow out. There is no time limit on this process as there are many factors involved. The fungus could take years to grow out.
Treatment options include topical preparations, which may be prescribed by your podiatrist or oral medications, prescribed by your general practitioner.
There are medicated nail lacquers available that are applied to the nail plate daily for long periods. Compliance is an issue with the application, as you have to be able to get to your nails comfortably. It is a costly preparation with a low result.
Medication is taken orally generally for 6-12 weeks. This has to be prescribed by your general practitioner. A positive laboratory result must be obtained prior to the general practitioner being able to prescribe the medication if it is to be given through the pharmaceutical benefits scheme. This treatment is successful, provided the dosage is correct.
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