Fungal Infections of the Nails (Onychomycosis)
Onychomycosis is a very common infection of the nails with a fungus, yeast or mold. Up to 50% of elderly individuals have onychomycosis.
What Onychomycosis Look Like?
Nails affected by onychomycosis typically develop yellow areas that are lifted from the nail bed. There is usually some "debris", or crumbly material underneath the lifted area. The nails may be thickened and, in more severe cases, the entire nail is abnormal. Toenails are affected much more commonly than fingernails. In some cases, all of the toenails are affected.
Who gets Onychomycosis?
Anyone can get onychomycosis but it is much more common in adults than in children. It increases in prevalence with increasing age and is more common in diabetics.
What Causes Onychomycosis?
Onychomycosis is an infection that is most often caused by a dermatophyte, a group of fungal organisms that have a tendency to infect the skin, nails or hair. Sometimes onychomycosis is caused by yeasts or other organisms. Most people with nail infections have athlete's foot (tinea pedis) first, and the infection then subsequently spread to the nails.
Are There Risks Associated with having Onychomycosis?
Most of the time onychomycosis is a cosmetic concern and does not pose a health risks. Diabetics with onychomycosis are at increased risk of skin infections.
How is Onychomycosis Treated?
Limited onychomycosis can be treated with topical antifungal solutions. Moderate or severe onychomycosis is usually treated with oral anti-fungal medications. Your doctor can help you decide which of these is right for you.
Is there Anything I can do to Prevent Onychomycosis?
- If you have athlete's foot, treat it promptly with topical anti-fungals
- Wear flip flops, shower shoes or swim shoes when visiting public pools, gyms, or anywhere where you would walk barefoot on a moist floor
- If you have had onychomycosis treated, speak to your doctor about other measures that can minimize recurrences