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Fungal nail infection
Alternative namesNails - fungal infection; Onychomycosis; Infection - fungal - nails
DefinitionThis disease is an infection of the nails by a fungus.
Causes, incidence, and risk factors
The body normally hosts a variety of microorganisms, including bacteria and fungi. Some of these are useful to the body. Others may multiply rapidly and form infections. Fungi can live on the dead tissues of the hair, nails, and outer skin layers.
Fungal infections include mold-like fungi that cause:
Fungal infections also include yeast-like fungi (such as Candida). Candida yeast infections include:
Fungal nail infections are most often seen in adults. They often follow fungal infection of the feet . Fungal nail infections may be difficult to treat and may recur often. Toenails are affected more often than fingernails.
People who frequent public swimming pools, gyms, or shower rooms; and people who perspire a great deal commonly have mold-like infections because the fungi that cause them thrive in warm, moist areas.
The risk of getting a fungal infection is increased by closed-in footwear, prolonged moist skin, and minor skin or nail injuries.
Signs and tests
Your doctor will suspect a fungal infection based on the appearance of the nails.
The diagnosis can be confirmed by scraping the nail for a culture or examining it under a microscope to identify the type of fungus.
Creams and ointments are generally no help in treating onychomycosis. Recently, however, a nail lacquer (called Penlac) has been marketed and may be helpful in some patients.
Oral medications -- such as Sporanox (itraconazole) or Lamisil (terbinafine) -- may be taken for several months. While these medicines may clear the fungus in about half of all patients, they can cause numerous side effects. Many people are not able to take these medications because of other medications that they are taking, or other medical problems.
Nails grow slowly, so even if treatment is successful, a new, clearer nail may take up to one year to replace the old nail.
Expectations (prognosis)Fungal nail infections may be difficult to treat and may become a reservoir for fungal organisms, causing them to return in the skin or nails. The fungal nail infection is cured by the growth of new, non-infected nails. Even with successful treatment, a relapse is common.
Calling your health care providerCall your health care provider if you experience persistent fungal nail infections, or if the fingers become painful, red, or drain pus.
PreventionGood general health and hygiene help to prevent fungal infections. Keep the skin clean and dry. Take proper care of the nails (see treatment). Wash and dry the hands thoroughly after contact with any fungal infection.
Update Date: 4/15/2003Michael Lehrer, M.D., Department of Dermatology, University of Pennsylvania Medical Center, Philadelphia, PA. Review provided by VeriMed Healthcare Network.
Last updated: Tue, 06 Jan 2009 00:20:03 GMT