What is onychomycosis?

Onychomycosis refers to fungal infections present in the fingernails or toenails. It can be called ringworm of the nails and most commonly affects the toes. The condition causes the nail to take on a yellow color and the nail to appear opaque instead of transparent. Onychomycosis can also damage the integrity of affected nails and they can easily break or crumble. Usually, this fungal infection does not cause pain in the nails, but It seems painful and quite easy to notice. In very severe cases, the nails can be painful.

There are many fungi present in many human environments that can cause onychomycosis. It is not always clear why some people develop reactions to these fungi while others do not, especially when the exposure is the same. One factor that can particularly encourage the growth of these special nail fungus, called dermatophytes, is a warm, moist environment. If you have constantly sweaty feet and wear heavy shoes, you can encourage the growth of dermatophytes, to the point where they create onychomycosis.

Treatment for this condition can be challenging, but it usually involves taking oral antifungal medications prescribed by your doctor. You usually need to take these medications for a long period of time, around six to twelve weeks, and at first the affected nails may not look completely healed. In fact, until new nail growth occurs and a completely new nail is in place, there may still be crumbling, yellowed, or cloudy nails. It can help to cut your nails short, but not too short, so less discoloration shows.

If you suspect that you have onychomycosis, you should not delay visiting the doctor. This condition is not like other fungal infections that can usually be treated with over-the-counter antifungal ointments. Unless contraindicated, prescription antifungal medications are the best method of treatment and are most likely to result in a cure.

It is especially important to see a doctor right away if you have diabetes and notice onychomycosis in your feet. Diabetics need to be particularly vigilant about foot care and are at much higher risk of devastating foot infections. If you seem prone to developing fungal foot infections, it can help to wear moisture-wicking socks, keep your nails trimmed and clean, and make sure they dry between your fingers and toes after baths and showers. In particular, make sure your feet are completely dry before putting on socks and shoes.

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