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Onychomycosis: Everything About Fingernail Fungus


What Is Onychomycosis?

Fingernail fungus is the commonly used name for onychomycosis. It is a common condition that starts under the fingernail or toenail as a white to yellow colored spot. These infections are recurring: it means they can happen again and again.

As the infection with the fungus goes deeper, the nail fungus may discolor, thicken, and crumble at the edge of the nail.  Tinea Unguium  is also known as Onychomycosis.

Symptoms Of Onychomycosis

Onychomycosis is painful for patients. Footwear, activity, and improper trimming of the nails can worsen the following symptoms:

  • Nail fungus starts at the end of the nails and raises the nail. It is more common in the toes than in the fingers. Usually, the big toe is the first one to get affected.
  • It usually begins at a corner as a discolored area and spreads slowly towards the cuticle. The toenails will eventually get thickened and flaky.
  • You can also sometimes see signs of athlete’s foot peeling between the toes or skin on the foot’s sole.
  • It may start at the base of the nail and raises the nail. This condition is similar to the former type, but it starts at the cuticle (the nail’s base) and spreads slowly to the tip of the nail. However, this condition is rare.
  • Yellow, brown, white, or thick nail is a common symptom of onychomycosis. People suffering from mouth yeast infections are prone to suffer this particular type, also called Candida yeast.
  • In tropical environments, the nail may develop symptoms of a white powdery texture on its surface.

Causes Of Onychomycosis

Normal and healthy people can catch this fungal infection from their environment. The most common sources are moist and wet areas. Other common sources are:

  • Communal showers such as those in a gym or swimming pools.
  • Going to nail salons using inadequate instrument sanitization (such as clippers, filers, and foot tubes)
  • In addition to the above causes, living with family members with fungal nails is also a risk.

Who Are At Risk?

It has been shown that athletes are more susceptible to nail fungus. This is due to wearing tight, sweaty shoes with the least air circulation. Having an athlete’s foot previously makes the toenails more likely to be infected by the fungus. Repetitive trauma also weakens the nail, making the nail more susceptible to infection with the fungus.

Other than fungus,  Yeast and molds  can also cause these infections of the nails.
Infection with fungal nails can develop in people of any age, but in older adults, it is more common. It can get brittle and dry as the nail ages. Older age, swimming, foot of athlete, psoriasis, diabetes, family members with the infection, or a suppressed immune system are risk factors.

Treatment Of Onychomycosis

Traditionally, treatment creams and other topical medicines have been less effective than oral medicines against nail fungus. This is because the nails are too difficult to penetrate for external applications. These medicines often require daily applications to see results for a period of up to one year.

Alternatively, doctors prescribe oral antifungal drugs. The minimal risk of severe side effects compared to oral therapy is one of the major advantages of topical treatment. However, only health care professionals may decide on a physical examination of the future course of treatment.

The patients use prescribed medication once daily for up to one year on affected nails. Once a week, the lacquer must be wiped with clean alcohol.

Precautions To Be Taken

The following habits can help to prevent nail fungus or reinfections and athlete’s foot, which can lead to nail fungus:

  • Wash your hands and feet regularly. After touching an infected nail, wash your hands then moisturize your nails.
  • Cut the nails straight across, smooth the file edges, and file thick areas down. After each use, disinfect your nail clippers.
  • Wear socks that absorb sweat or change your socks all day long.
  • Choose shoes made from breathing materials.
  • Reject old shoes or use disinfectants or antifungal powders to treat them.
  • In pool areas and locker rooms wear footwear.
  • Choose a nail salon for each customer using sterilized manicure tools.
  • Give up on artificial nail polish and nails.
  • Use hand sanitizer after assisting a patient.
  • Ensure enough air circulation after any sweaty exercise.
  • Drink enough water for general skin health.

Where Onychomycosis Comes From?

Nobody knows where the fungus is caught by a particular person, as it is everywhere. However, as the fungus thrives in warm, moist areas (like sweaty feet), the prone patients should avoid such areas.

Shower floors, locker rooms, and swimming pools are suspected to be fungus sources, although there is no evidence of this fact. Nail polish and acrylic nails also make the nail less “breathable” and make the nail more susceptible to fungal infection. Fungi are in the air, dust, and soil everywhere.

Some Other Precautionary Measures

Hygienic measures such as sock spraying and footwear sound sensitive and these measures may even help a bit. However, avoiding tight, non-breathing shoes or steering off athletic facility floors may well be the best available prevention.

Daily feet washing and drying between the toes can help prevent the fungus from being nailed. The fungi, like cats and dogs, carried on pet’s coats often do not cause nail fungus. It doesn’t help wearing white socks.


Curing fungal nails can be so difficult if you did not take proper precautions and its treatment can take up to more than normal which may take 2 years. If you take every precaution then 18 months are enough for a cure. So, we should follow the proper hygienic routine as prevention is better than cure.

Here are some other articles you should have a look at how to use oregano oil for tinea versicolor treatment and how to cure chalazion using apple cider vinegarĀ chalazion apple cider vinegar?

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