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Fungal Nail Infection (Onychomycosis)

Fungal Nail Infection (Onychomycosis) Overview

Fungal infection of the toenails or fingernails is caused by a fungal microbe that invades the nail bed. Fungal nail infection is also termed onychomycosis and tinea unguium. Fungal nail infection causes fingernails or toenails to thicken, discolor, disfigure, and split. At first, onychomycosis appears to be only a cosmetic concern. Without treatment, however, the toenails can become so thick that they press against the inside of the shoes, causing pressure, irritation, and pain. Fingernail infection may cause psychological, social, or employment-related problems.

Half of all nail disorders are caused by onychomycosis, and it is the most common nail disease in adults. Toenails are much more likely to be infected than fingernails. The incidence of onychomycosis has been increasing and is associated with diabetes, a suppressed immune system, and increasing age. Adults, especially the elderly, are more likely to have onychomycosis than children.

Fungal nail infection is divided into subtypes. The main subtypes of onychomycosis are as follows:

  • Distal lateral subungual (the area under the nail) onychomycosis (DLSO or DSO)
  • White superficial onychomycosis (WSO)
  • Proximal subungual onychomycosis (PSO)
  • Endonyx onychomycosis (EO)
  • Candidal onychomycosis

People with fungal nail infection may have a combination of these subtypes. Total dystrophic onychomycosis is the term used to refer to the most advanced form of any subtype.

Medically Reviewed by a Doctor on 3/17/2015

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Patient Comments & Reviews

The eMedicineHealth doctors ask about Fungal Nail Infection (Onychomycosis):

Fungal Nail Infection - Symptoms and Signs

What are the symptoms and signs of your fungal nail infection?

Fungal Nail Infection - Treatment

What effective treatments have you found for fungal nail infections?

How is onychomycosis treated?

Whether to treat a fungal nail infection is up to you. If it is not treated, it won't go away, and it might get worse. But fungal infections can be hard to treat. If you do treat it, you could spend a lot of money, and the treatment might not work.

If you decide to treat a fungal nail infection, you can try an antifungal cream, lotion, or nail polish. You can buy some types without a prescription, or your doctor can prescribe a stronger one. You may need to use this medicine for a few weeks or for as long as a year. Even so, it may not get rid of the infection.

Antifungal pills give the best chance of curing a severe fungal nail infection, but they may cost a lot and have serious side effects. You will need to see your doctor for regular testing if you take these pills. You should not take them if you have liver or heart problems.

SOURCE: Healthwise

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Onychomycosis »

Onychomycosis (OM) refers to a fungal infection that affects the toenails or the fingernails.

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