• Mark N. Perlmutter, MS, MD

Are you at Risk for Fungal Nail Infection?

What is fungal nail infection? (Onychomycosis)

Fungal nail infection is also known as “onychomycosis.” Onychomycosis is a fungal infection of the fingernails or toenails that may involve any component of the nail unit, including the nail matrix, nail bed, or nail plate (see image below). Onychomycosis can cause pain, discomfort, and disfigurement and may produce serious physical and occupational limitations, as well as reducing quality of life.

Finger Nail Anatomy | Carolina Regional Orthopaedics

What does it look like?

A fungal infection of the nail may affect part of the nail, the entire nail, or several nails.


Common signs of a fungal nail infection include:

  • Discolored nail (yellow, brown, or white)

  • Distorted or cracked nail that may lift off from the nail bed

  • Odor coming from the infected nail

  • Brittle or thickened nail

A fungal nail infection usually isn’t painful unless it becomes severe.


Who is at risk?

Anyone can get fungal nail infection and there are many different causes. Each cause has a treatment of its own. Some people may be more likely than others to get a fungal nail infection, including older adults and people who have the following conditions:

  • Nail injury or nail surgery

  • Diabetes

  • A weakened immune system

  • Blood circulation problems

  • Athlete’s foot (ringworm on the foot)

  • People over age 65

  • Wearing artificial nails

  • Swimming in a public swimming pool

  • Skin injury around the nail

  • Moist fingers or toes for an extended time

  • Wearing closed-toe shoes, such as tennis shoes or boots for a long time

Nail infections occur more often in men than in women, and the infections are found in adults more often than in children. If you have family members who often get these types of fungal infections, you are more likely to get them as well.


Older adults have a high risk for getting fungal nail infections because they have poorer circulation. The nails also grow more slowly and thicken as we age.


How to prevent it?

The following steps can help you prevent from fungal nail infection, despite the fact that you are at high risk for it.

  • Wash your hands after touching any infected area

  • Dry your hands and feet well after showering, especially between your fingers and toes

  • Clip your fingernails and toenails short and keep them clean.

  • Avoid being barefoot in public places

  • Reduce your use of artificial nails and nail polish

  • Don’t share nail clippers with other people

  • Manicures or pedicures from trustworthy salons that are licensed by your state’s cosmetology board (Nail Hygiene)


Takeaway

Fungal nail infections can be difficult to cure, and they typically don’t go away without professional anti-fungal treatment. In severe cases, your doctor might remove the nail completely to prevent it from spreading. Prevention is always better than treating it afterwards. Please take a good care of your fingers and toes as they play a big role in your daily activities.


Schedule an appointment immediately if you suspect any of the symptoms discussed above, because other nail conditions may mimic symptoms of a fungal nail infection, the only way to confirm a diagnosis is to see a doctor.


Carolina Regional Orthopaedics

Carolina Regional Orthopaedics provides the most effective, modern, and innovative techniques in both Orthopedic Surgery and Pain Management using proven methodologies in both the surgical and non-surgical treatment of all conditions affecting the spine, upper extremities, and lower extremities. We specialize in hand and wrist surgery, joint replacements, sports medicine, trauma care, pediatric orthopedics, pain management, wound care, regenerative medicine, physical therapy, imaging services, and EMG testing.

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