What is onychomycosis?
This fungal nail infection happens when a fungus attacks your toenail or the nail bed, causing discoloration, thickening, brittleness and cracking of the nail. If you are healthy, onychomycosis is more of an unattractive nuisance than a problem. However, if you have diabetes or a weakened immune system, this type of infection could lead to serious complications if left untreated.
What causes it?
While yeasts, molds and different kinds of fungi can cause onychomycosis, it’s usually the result of the same type of fungus associated with athlete’s foot. The fungi that cause onychomycosis thrive in warm and moist places, such as showers and pools. To limit exposure, avoid walking barefoot in these places, and do not share personal items such as footwear or nail clippers.
Who is more likely to get onychomychosis?
- People over the age of 60
- People with diabetes or immune system deficiencies
- People who have a nail injury
- People who live or work in a location that is hot and humid
- People who wear shoes that make their feet damp or sweaty
What are the symptoms?
A common sign of onychomychosis is one or more toenails that have turned yellow or white, thickened and split. The thickness of the nail may cause discomfort and pain, and the infection could spread to other toes.
When should I see my doctor?
Onychomycosis won’t go away on its own and it can spread to the other toes. If you’re in good health, taking action is up to you. However, if you have diabetes or an immune system deficiency, onychomycosis can lead to serious complications and should be treated as soon as symptoms are noted and diagnosed.
How is onychomycosis treated?
Over-the-counter treatment options include antifungal creams, lotions and topical treatments, although their effectiveness is less than that of prescription treatments. The ideal way to treat onychomycosis is to use a variety of products. Further, care needs to be taken to keep shoes clean, dry and free of harmful bacteria. Shoes can be treated with a UV shoe sterilizer, such as the SteriShoe.
How can I prevent it?
The best way to prevent fungal toenail infections is to keep the feet clean and dry. Toenails should be kept short and be cut straight across. Feet should be thoroughly dried after a bath or shower, and absorbent cotton socks should be worn to keep feet dry and well-ventilated.