The most common disease of the nails is onychmycosis — a fungal infection of the toenails. It causes the toe nails to thicken, become discolored, and split. The most common symptom of a fungal nail infection is that the nail becomes thicker and discolored. The nail can change to a white, black, yellow, or green color. As the infection progresses, the nail gets thicker and becomes brittle with discolored areas throughout the entire nail. There is no pain with the nail until the nail becomes severely disfigured.
The cause of the fungal infection is a fungus or dermatophytes. Aging is a risk factor for onychomycosis due to the decreased blood flow. Nail fungus affects females or than males and may be associated with family history. Individuals that perspire heavily, work in moist environments, wearing shoes with no ventilation, or wearing shoes with no socks. Fungal nails are also caused by severe athlete’s foot, nail injuries, diabetes, circulation issues, and a weaken immune system.
Diagnosis and Treatment Options
To confirm the diagnosis of onychomycosis, pieces of the fungal nails are cultured by a lab. Treatment of the infected toenail is difficult due to the infection being embedded within the nail bed of the nail. Total care of the toenail is slow and may take as long as a year to treat. The first treatment is topical. Applying a topical liquid medication twice a day. Oral system medication is also used. This process is faster than topical treatment and sometimes used in conjunction with the topical treatment and laser treatment, which is the last treatment option. With severe fungal nails combining treatments may be necessary.