Onychomycosis

(Tinea Unguium; Fungal Nail Infection)

Definition

Onychomycosis is an infection of the nail. The infection occurs more often on toenails than fingernails.
Fungal Infection of the Toenails
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Causes

Onychomycosis is caused by a fungus. The fungi that cause onychomycosis survive in warm, moist environments. It is spread through direct contact with the fungus.

Risk Factors

Anyone can get fungal nail infections. Factors that increase your chance of onychomycosis include:
  • Wearing shoes that trap in moisture and warmth, such as workboots
  • Increased age
  • Having athlete's foot
  • Having an injury to the nail
  • Type 1 or type 2 diabetes
  • Circulatory disorders, such as peripheral vascular disease (PAD)
  • Immune system disorders, such as HIV

Symptoms

Onychomycosis can affect one or more nails. It most commonly occurs on toenails.Onychomycosis may cause:
  • Thickened nail that is difficult to cut
  • Brittle or ragged nail
  • Discolored or unsightly nail
  • Pain in the nail when doing ordinary activities

Diagnosis

Your doctor will ask about your symptoms and medical history. A physical exam will be done. 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. Results make take several weeks.Tests on the nail sample may include:
  • Culture
  • Examination under a microscope

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