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Onychomycosis - Causes, Symptoms and Treatment


Onychomycosis is a fungal infection of the fingernails or toenails, which is usually caused by trichophyton rubrum or T. mentagrophytes. Also called tinea unguium. The fungus can live within the keratin that compose the nails and digest it. The infection may be due to a dermatophyte , yeast, or nondermatophyte mould. The term "tinea unguium" is used specifically to describe invasive dermatophytic onychomycosis.

Onychomycosis have an important impact on the life of affected individuals. Once the nails become involved, they undergo a variety of changes and may even be destroyed.
Onychomycosis refers to the invasion of the nail plate by a fungus. The prevalence of onychomycosis is about 6-8% in the adult population.

Causes of Onychomycosis:

The main causes of onychomycosis are :-

  • The most common causes of onychomycosis are dermatophytes. Trichophyton rubrum is the principal agent causing both onychomycosis and tinea pedis, followed by Trichophyton mentagrophytes
  • The immune deficiency can also lead to the condition of onychomycosis.
  • A history of athlete's foot and excess perspiration are also risk factors.
  • To some extant, the family history of onchomycosis is also responsible for the development of this disease.
  • The trauma and living in the warm climate, are also the main cause of onychomycosis.

The other fungi also causes onychomycosis.These include :

  • Acremonium spp.(mould)
  • Aspergillus spp . (mould)
  • Candida spp . (yeast)
  • Fusarium oxysporum (mould)

Symptoms of Onychomycosis:

The possible symptoms of onychomycosis are :-

  • When a toenail develops a fungal infection,it turns yellow or brown and becomes overgrown.
  • The fungal infection may produce trauma to nails.
  • The nails become fragile or break easily.
  • As the disease progresses, onychomycosis may interfere with standing, walking, and exercising.
  • The pain, discomfort and loss of agility may also occur due to fungal infections.
  • The thickening of the nails, either of the hand or foot are also one of the common symptoms of onychomycosis. As a result they lose their luster or shine.
  • Generally small white speckled or powdery-looking patches appear on the surface of the nail plate.

Treatments of Onychomycosis:

The effective treatments for onychomycosis are :-

  • Penlac topical therapy: Penlac Nail Lacquer (ciclopirox) Topical Solution can be used for the treatment of mild to moderate onychomycosis.
  • The oral anti-fungus medicines are also suitable for the eradication of onychomycosis.
  • The sodium pyrithione, bifonazole/urea, propylene glycol-urea-lactic acid, imidazoles, and allylamines are very beneficial in the treatment of onychomycosis.
  • Diflucan, can also be tried for the treatment of onychomycosis, but it may be an alternative to itraconazole and terbinafine.
  • Onychomycosis, can be treated by using ultramicrosize griseofulvin generally recommended for 6 months.
  • Some medications:Such as Itraconazole, Fluconazole and Terbinafine are also found to be very effective.
  • Naftifine or a lotion i.e. ciclopirox are effective in case the fungal infection is not severe.