Tinea unguium is a common type of fungal infection. It is also called onychomycosis. The fungus infects the fingernails and, more commonly, the toenails. It’s more common in men, older adults, and people who have diabetes, psoriasis, peripheral vascular disease, or another health problem that weakens the immune system.
Tinea unguium is caused by a fungus. Several different types of fungus can grow on the nails.
The condition is much more likely to occur on the toenails. It can spread from one nail to another. You are more likely to get tinea unguium if you:
Have another fungal infection, such as athlete’s foot
Have sweaty feet
Share nail clippers with a person who has a fungal infection
Walk barefoot in damp areas, such as locker rooms
Use communal or shared showers
Wear artificial nails
If you have an infected nail, it may become:
Discolored, yellow to brown
Irregular in shape
The nail may also have crumbling white or colored material under it.
If left untreated, the fungus may spread to the nail bed, which is the skin under the nail. The nail may
also fall off.
Tinea unguium is diagnosed by looking at nail clippings under a microscope. Medical treatment is not needed for all people. It is helpful for those who have cellulitis on their legs or feet that comes back again and again. It is also helpful for people who have diabetes plus risk factors for cellulitis, a weak immune system, nail pain, or concerns about how their toenails look.
With proper treatment, tinea unguium may be cured. But it often takes several months as the nail grows. It is common for tinea unguium to return even after treatment.
Good hygiene. Keep feet and nails clean and dry. If the infection is on the toenails, check that your shoes fit properly.
Medicine. Over-the-counter antifungal products, such as creams, generally don't cure the infection, but they may ease symptoms. If you have a severe infection, or the infection won’t go away, you may need to use a prescription-strength antifungal antibiotic on the nail, or take an antifungal antibiotic by mouth. The oral antibiotic usually needs to be taken for 3 to 4 months for the most benefit. Some of these oral medicines can have side effects, but they are usually manageable .
Surgery. The nail may be removed. But there is a high chance the fungus will return.
Laser. A special type of laser directed at the nail itself can kill the fungus
Call your healthcare provider right away if you have any of these:
Pain that gets worse
Symptoms that don’t get better, or get worse
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