Onychomycosis, popularly known as fungal infection of the nail, is among the most frequent nail disorder any ordinary person can acquire. A fungus contaminates the nail leading to progressive nail damage. This condition can become chronic, meaning that it lasts for a long time and recurs. Overall, it is manageable with the aid of early and accurate diagnosis.
The start of onychomycosis can be unclear. Nail may appear whitish to yellowish on earlier stages. For some, streaks of brown show on the nail’s surface. The emergence of these color change usually is not painful so nail fungus is often ignored.
As the fungus grows, the appearance becomes unsightly and the alteration of shape becomes pronounced. This advances to become frail until a point that the nail splits up from the nail bed. The toenail commonly gets affected first followed by the fingernails. The infection can spread from one nail to the other. In some cases, the affected nail becomes moist and has a foul smell.
With skin and nail diseases, inspection of the surface help convey a diagnosis. A visit to a dermatologist will determine whether the nail disorder is really onychomycosis and the extent of infection. Visual inspection may be sufficient but a confirmatory test is indicated to distinguish nail fungus from other nail disorders. There are other diseases that affect the nail which can be mistaken as onychomycosis. A nail culture is done. Scraping from the nail and surrounding skin are taken and the specimen is examined under a microscope. This will accurately identify whether the culture is a fungi or not. Nail cultures will validate whether the infection is caused by a virus, bacteria or fungi.
The best way to control the multiplication of fungi is to practice proper hygiene. Always wash your hands and feet after contact with public items and places such as bathrooms, showers, basin and pools. Avoid sharing of things like towels, socks, shoes and nail grooming kits. Always keep hands and feet dry. Fungi live in damp environment. Maintaining dry skin will hinder fungi growth. You can use foot powders, cotton socks and well-aerated shoes to keep feet dry. You can stop the spread of toenail fungus by washing used socks with warm water and detergent and by drying well.
Onychomycosis is non-self-healing and may become widespread needing medications. Both topical and oral treatments are available. For mild to moderate cases, topical creams or ointments are applied over the affected nail and skin. This lasts for months up to a year. For moderate to severe cases, oral therapy is recommended. Oral pills are taken for 3-6 months. It’s not easy to treat nail fungus and preventive steps should be done to prevent recurrence. Your doctor will determine the drug of choice and length of therapy indicated on your condition. In most cases, it takes several months for treatment to complete.
If you’re having doubts whether it’s a nail fungus or not, have it checked for proper diagnosis. When it’s discovered early, treatment can be started early too. Self-care and medications go hand in hand for faster and total healing. Onychomycosis may not be scary at first but once your nails are all gone, it would be a problem to make them return.