Onychomycosis is the clinical name for the common problem known as nail fungus. This is a growth of fungus on the nail bed, beneath the nails. It can occur in either fingernails or toenails, but is far more common in the toenails.
This is because the feet are regularly covered with socks and shoes, giving fungi just the type of dark, moist environment they need to thrive. Nail fungus usually begins as a white or yellow spot under the tip of your nail. As the fungus spreads, the nail can become brittle, thick and discolored, which can be unsightly and embarrassing.
The image below shows a very advanced case of onychomycosis. You can see how the fungus has basically taken over all of the nails, giving them a yellowed, rough appearance.
What Causes Toenail Fungus?
Fungal infections of the nails can actually be caused by organisms other than fungus. Yeast and mold can also cause these persistent and troublesome infections to spread. Because these types of microscopic organisms do not need light to live, they tend to thrive in dark, moist environments.
Any place that is continually wet, such as a shower or pool is a perfect breeding ground. They can also gain the necessary moisture when you sweat, especially if you are wearing confining clothing that does not allow your skin to breathe.
Having athlete’s foot for any length of time can increase your chances of developing nail fungus, as can sustaining trauma to the nails. Finally, if you have any cuts or open sores, the infection can spread and invade your skin at an even deeper level.
How Can Nail Fungus Be Treated?
Once fungus gets into the nails, it is very difficult to treat. There are several over the counter anti-fungal medications available but not all of them are particularly effective.
One of the better new natural treatments is called H-Nail Fungus Formula, an all-natural solution that can eliminate fungal infection and prevent recurrence.
A pill called griseofulvin is sometimes prescribed to treat the condition. They are typically taken for six months to a year, and may cause side effects such as nausea, headaches and in rare instances reversible liver damage. You can’t drink while taking the medication, and it has a 50-70% chance of curing yopur nail fungus.
A newer medication, Lamisil, is another for the treatment of toe and fingernail fungal infections. Containing a compund called Terbinafine, the medication is a once daily pill taken for 6 to 12 weeks. It typically has fewer side effects than griseofulvin but it can cause liver issues and affect taste sensation in some patients. It also has a 50-70% chance of permanently curing your nail fungus condition.
If you do not want to try to cure the condition you can control onychomycosis and improve the appearance of the nails by brushing on FDA approved undecylenic acid. If your infection is particularly painful, your doctor may suggest removal of the nail. This will ease the pain but it will not get rid of onychomycosis. When the new nail grows in, it almost always becomes reinfected.
Other treatments for nail fungus include the use of laser therapy, soaking the infected nail in a vinegar solution, applying tea tree oil or rubbing it with Vicks VapoRub. Aside from these treatments, you can help to prevent the growth and spread of fungus by keeping your feet clean and dry, wearing socks made from breathable fibers, and keeping your nails short and trim.