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What is nail fungus?

© WikiMedia (Wikimedia) 1 Detachment of my index fingernail due to a crushing. 1 Distacco dell
© WikiMedia (Wikimedia)

Nail fungus can afflict one or more fingernails or toenails. It begins as a white or yellow spot and will then spread throughout the nail. As it spreads, the nail will get thick and discolored, often separating from the nail bed. This condition can be painful. Symptoms of nail fungus are nails that are dull, distorted, brittle, thick, or dark. The nail may have a bad odor and be painful. You may see signs of onycholysis, or the nail separating from the nail bed. Nail fungus is usually a dermatophyte fungi but may be mold or yeast as well. They thrive in dark locations and in wet environments.

Whenever your feet or hands are wet and warm, they are at risk for fungi growth. Your chances of getting a nail fungus increases with perspiration, psoriasis, socks or shoes that do not reflect moisture, being barefoot in moist places, having diabetes or other circulatory conditions, or by having tinea pedis or athlete’s foot. When you go for a diagnosis your nails will be examined and they may take samples of the debris from under the nail for laboratory analysis. Once under a microscope, they will see if its yeast, bacteria, or fungi. Once they know what is causing the infection, they can prescribe treatment. Treatment for nail fungus, according to the Mayo Clinic, can be from an oral antifungal such as itraconazole or terbinafine. These oral drugs can be long-term and the results are often not seen until the entire nail grows back. Other treatments include topical drugs. There is an antifungal lacquer that is taken once a day, brushed on like nail polish. Others are creams and lotions that work better when the majority of the nail is removed so that the antifungal is placed directly on the nail bed. Home remedies include vinegar applied directly to the nail in a bath soak. Other remedies include tea tree oil applied under the nail and around the perimeter of the nail. Tea tree oil is a natural antifungal.

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