Onychomycosis, or a fungal infection of a nail, is an increasingly common disorder. It accounts for 20% of all nail diseases, and occurs almost exclusively in adults.
One in two people over the age of 70 suffer from this type of infection, demonstrating how risk for developing the condition increases with age, declining circulatory health, and foot care. Fungi thrive in moist and warm environments, and when fungus is caught in the narrow cavity between the nail and the tissue, the fungus can begin to infect the nail and cause a plethora of problems.
Your doctor will likely start an examination by simply looking at your nails. Different types of fungi have characteristic features that suggest nail infection, and these can be used to differentiate onychomycosis from other types of infections.
Additional laboratory tests may also be used to confirm the diagnosis and identity of the fungal culprit. One of our foot specialists will make a preliminary diagnosis based on examining the nails and confirm this in the laboratory using microscopy and culture techniques.
Symptoms of Onychomycosis
The symptoms of onychomycosis are visually identified by a yellow tint to the afflicted nail, and rarely there may also be slight pain or a foul odor associated. If left untreated, pain can increase and, in some cases, dermatophytids may be experienced. These are skin lesions that are similar to allergic reactions that occur when exposed to certain types of fungi.
The infection could spread throughout the body and lead to severe complications if left unchecked for long enough.
There are several different treatments for onychomycosis. The different types of treatment include:
Mechanical treatment typically involves filing and trimming of infected nails, and also partial or even complete removal of the nail by surgical means in more severe cases.
Topical treatment involves solutions of antifungal agents that are applied directly onto the nails in order to kill the fungi at the source.
Systemic treatment refers to capsules or tablets that are swallowed in an attempt to eliminate all traces of the fungus that may have entered our systems during infection.
While physical maintenance such as filing and cleaning combined with over the counter anti-fungal treatments may solve very mild cases, effective and permanent solutions can only be found from a dedicated foot care specialist.
A podiatric physician can detect a fungal infection early, culture the nail, determine the cause, and form a suitable and personalized treatment plan. This may include prescribing topical and/or oral medications and debridement (removal of diseased nail matter and debris) of an infected nail.
Initially, onychomycosis may seem to be a trivial infection that is not worth attention, let alone treatment. Over time, foul odors, pain, and widespread fungal infection symptoms such as impaired cognition and blood flow to peripheral arteries may begin to surface if left unchecked.
Our foot specialists and leading podiatric doctor can develop a personalized treatment plan based on your unique condition that will remove the infection at the source and remove any potential for serious complications to develop.