(Tinea Unguium, Fungal Nail Infection)
Onychomycosis is an infection of the nail caused by a fungus. The infection occurs more often on toenails than fingernails.
The fungi that cause onychomycosis thrive in warm, moist environments. Factors that may contribute to onychomycosis include:
- Injury to the nail
- Exposure to warm, moist environments, like locker rooms
- Damp socks
- Tight fitting shoes
- Poor nail care
A risk factor is something that increases your chance of getting a disease or condition.
Risk factors for onychomycosis include:
- Age: 60 or older
- Type 1 or Type 2 Diabetes
- Circulatory disorders, such as peripheral vascular disease
- Immune system disorders, such as human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) infection
Onychomycosis can affect one or more nails.
- Thickened nail that is difficult to cut
- Brittle or ragged nail
- Discolored or unsightly nail
- Pain of the finger or toe with ordinary activities
Your doctor will ask about your symptoms and medical history, and perform a physical exam. You may need to be referred to a doctor who specializes in skin and nail disorders (a dermatologist). The doctor may scrape or clip the nail to send a sample for testing.
Tests on the nail sample may include:
- Microscopic examination
Since nails grow slowly, it can take up to a year to have a completely clear nail. Onychomycosis can be difficult to treat and may return after treatment. Talk with your doctor about the best treatment plan for you. Treatment options include the following:
Prescription antifungal medications taken by mouth (Note: Some people cannot take antifungal medications. Tell your doctor about any other medications you are taking and any medical problems you have.)
Creams and ointments
Anti-fungal nail lacquer
Surgery to remove the nail is sometimes performed in severe cases of onychomycosis. A new nail grows in its place.
To help reduce your chance of getting onychomycosis, take the following steps:
- Keep your feet clean and dry them completely after washing.
- Keep your hands dry and wear rubber gloves when cleaning.
- Keep nails short and clean, trimming them straight across.
- Do not trim or pick at the skin near your nails.
- Take care to avoid injuring your toenails.
- Avoid shoes that are too tight.
- Wear absorbent cotton socks and change them if they become damp.
- Avoid walking barefoot around swimming pools, locker rooms, and other public places.
- Choose a reputable salon for manicures and pedicures.
- Avoid artificial nails, which can trap moisture.
- Stop smoking.
- If you have diabetes, see your doctor about steps you can take to better control your blood sugar.