Onychomycosis (OM) means the fungal infections of the nails. It may affect one or several nails, whether it is the fingernails or toenails. It is more prevalent among adults that are 60 years old and above. It is also a common condition among those who have other medical conditions like diabetes, athlete’s foot, trauma, nail psoriasis, or weakened immune system.
Toenail fungus is caused mainly by dermatophytes, yeasts, and least commonly by molds. Fungi are known as microscopic organisms that don’t need sunlight. They thrive in warm and moist environments. This type of infection affects the toenails more than the fingernails because the toes are often confined in your shoes’ warm and moist environment. Your toes experience less blood flow compared to your fingers, which makes it more difficult for your immune system to eliminate the infection.
Symptoms and Complications
Nail fungus infection may cause the nail to become yellow, white, or brown. It can become thick and distorted in shape. It may lift off the nail bed at times. It can become crumbly or break off easily. In some cases, the nail may hurt when left untreated. When treated properly, toenail fungus infections often result in serious health conditions in the long term. However, it can become serious in some people. This is particularly true for those who have diabetes, a weakened immune system, or problems fighting off an infection. Even though there is no pain linked to the infection, it is crucial for you to visit the physician to have a proper assessment and diagnosis if you notice any changes in the nail’s appearance.
Some cases of toenail fungus infections may not require medical treatment. However, once the doctor has confirmed that you have a nail fungus infection and prescribes treatment, usually the treatment the doctor prescribes is an oral antifungal medication like terbinafine or itraconazole. This is based on the fungus that causes the infection. If you are suffering from a mild to moderate case of nail fungus infection, the doctor may sometimes prescribe a topical therapy such as ciclopirox and efinaconazole that will be applied to the infected nail directly. Patience is key when it comes to nail fungus treatment. The duration of treatment may vary from 2 to 3 months for oral antifungals to up to 12 months when using a topical treatment. The nails take a long time to grow back, six months for fingernails and 12 to 18 months for toenails. It will take some time for the infection to clear up and the nail to look better regardless of the type of treatment used. At times, treatment may fail and the doctor may prescribe a different medication. In some cases when the infection is severe, and there is no response to medication, the doctor may recommend nail removal. In some cases, combination therapy may be recommended such as surgery and topical treatment.
It is possible to treat toenail fungal infections at home. You can try over-the-counter antifungal creams, ointments, and lacquers. Trimming and filing down the nails are crucial to reducing pressure and pain coming from the infected nail. Before you do this, you can soften the nail by applying a urea-containing cream. Most people start their home remedies through the use of common household items before they visit the doctor or buy any over-the-counter medication. This type of treatment works for mild cases of nail fungus infections.