Onychomycosis is a fungal infection of the toenails or fingernails. Onychomycosis 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, a fungal infection , and it is the most common nail disease in adults. Onychomycosis is caused by 3 main classes of organisms: dermatophytes (fungi that infect hair, skin, and nails and feed on nail tissue), yeasts, and nondermatophyte molds. All 3 classes cause the same symptoms, so the appearance of the infection does not reveal which class is responsible for the infection. Dermatophytes (including Epidermophyton, Microsporum, and Trichophyton species) are, by far, the most common causes of onychomycosis worldwide. Yeasts cause 8% of cases, and nondermatophyte molds cause 2% of onychomycosis cases. Toenails are much more likely to be infected than fingernails.
The incidence of onychomycosis has been increasing and is related to diabetes, a suppressed immune system, and increasing age. Adults are 30 times more likely to have onychomycosis than children. In fact, only 2.6% of children younger than 18 years are reported to have onychomycosis, but as many as 90% of elderly people have onychomycosis
Risk factors for onychomycosis include family history, advancing age, poor health, trauma, living in a warm climate, participation in fitness activities, immunosuppression (can occur from HIV or certain drugs), bathing in communal showers (such as at a gym), and wearing shoes that cover the toes completely and don’t let in any airflow.
The nail plate can have a thickened, yellow, or cloudy appearance. The nails can become rough and crumbly, or can separate from the nail bed. There is usually no pain or other bodily symptoms, unless the disease is severe.
In general, Onychomycosis does not cause any symptoms. People with onychomycosis usually go to the doctor for cosmetic reasons, not because of physical pain or problems related to onychomycosis.
As the disease progresses, onychomycosis may interfere with standing, walking, and exercising. Patients with onychomycosis may experience significant psychosocial problems due to the appearance of the nail. This is particularly increased when fingernails are affected.
Onychomycosis (OM) can be identified by its appearance. However, other conditions and infections can cause problems in the nails that look like onychomycosis. OM must be diagnosed by a doctor. Traditional treatments involve long courses of antibiotics, are expensive, and traditional treatments have some risks.
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