• What is?
  • Causes
  • Treatment

What Is a Nail Fungus?

Onchomycosis is a fungal infection of the toenails or fingernails. The infection causes the fingernails and toenails to discolor, disfigure, thicken, and split.

Symptoms: Onychomycosis can discolor the nail causing the nail to turn yellow or black. The nail can also become brittle and deformed. In most cases fungal infections of the nails are only a cosmetic concern. However, if left untreated the nail can over grow and press onto the underlying skin causing pain and irritation.

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There are basically 3 main organisms that are responsible for nail fungus that include the dermatophytes, yeasts, and molds. All of the organisms responsible for nail fungus cause the same symptoms, and it is impossible to differentiate based on clinical appearance. The dermatophytes (Epidermophyton, Microsporum, and Trichophyton species) are the most common causes of onychomycosis then yeasts and molds.

Associated risks for becoming infected with onychomycosis include: Using communal showers at the gym or community pools, walking barefoot outdoors either in grass or at the beach, living in a warmer has also been associated with nail fungal infections since these infectious organisms thrive in warm moist environments, advancing ages, poor health, trauma to the nail or nail bed, pedicures, immunosuppressive conditions such as HIV or from drugs used to suppress the immune system and wearing shoes that don't provide enough airflow to the feet.


There are several topical medications available to treat fungal infections. However, for the most part are used to contain the infection and aren't very useful in curing it. The more effective drugs used to cure nail fungus are taken orally such as itraconazole (Sporanox), fluconazole (Diflucan), and terbinafine (Lamisil). These drugs have good blood absorption and have been shown as an effective treatment for nail fungus. These drugs can have serious side effects and patients must be monitored during treatment. In some cases removal of the nail may be an option while treating the nail bed and the new growing nail with a topical treatment. Laser treatment is also an option. This treatment uses a laser that penetrates the nail and destroys fungal cells while passing harmlessly through healthy cells.

If you feel you have fungal nails or have questions about this condition make an appointment with us here at Atlantic Foot and Ankle where our doctors will be happy to evaluate your nails and discuss treatment options with you.

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