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Identification and Treatment of Nail Fungus (Fungal Infections)
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Identification and Treatment of Nail Fungus

Yves Poulin, MD, FRCPC

Onychomycosis is the medical name for a condition where the finger or toenails become infected by fungus. The toenail is the most common area of infection, as the toenails grow slower than the finger nails, which fungus prefer. Onychomycosis can be unappealing, and depending on the severity of infection, uncomfortable, or even painful. For more general information, visit www.fungalguide.ca.

Although changes in nail appearance can be caused by other ailments such as psoriasis, or simple physical damage or trauma, fungal infection accounts for almost 50% of cases where the nail has changed. 

If you notice any of the following, your nails may be infected by a fungus:

  • Thickening of the nails
  • Discoloration or chalkiness on the surface or under the nail
  • Crumbling nails, or appearance of crumbs under the nails
  • Pooling of blood under the nails
  • Onycholysis or the separation of the nail from the nail bed

Note that nail separation can be caused by a variety of other causes, such as psoriasis, hyperhidrosis, and eczema, as well as nail fungus. Nail separation can also be induced by disorders such as hyperthyroidism, or be chemically or physically induced.

Visit your dermatologist if you suspect that your nail may be infected. Nail scrapings can be tested for fungal culture to determine if you may have a nail infection. If you fit one of the descriptions below, you may be at a higher risk than usual for nail infections:

  • Advanced age
  • Diabetes
  • Immunosuppression
  • Peripheral vascular disease
  • Existence of open wounds on the nails
  • Physical trauma on nails

Once fungal infection has been identified, treatment can take three general forms. They are topical solutions, systemic solutions, and the use of lacquer. Treatment can take time, and recurrence of nail fungus is extremely common. Consult your dermatologist for consultation for the best treatment strategy for you.

Related:

fungal infections,   nail fungus,   onychomycosis,