Onychomycosis is the name given for a fungal infection of the nails. This type of infection is very common in toenails and can cause the nails to thicken, discolour, deform, crumble and split. Often they are of cosmetic concern as they are unsightly, and at times, painful.
How Does It Occur?
Onychomycosis is caused by fungal organisms that invade the nail through the nail bed or nail plate. The fungus may infect a nail damaged by trauma and can often spread from the skin to the nails and from person to person. The nail itself provides a protective covering that allows the fungus to grow underneath on the nail bed unimpeded.
There are several factors that may put you at increased risk of developing fungal toenails. These include:
- Trauma to the nail. Acute or repetitive micro-trauma such as rubbing.
- Poor hygiene – not drying off the feet thoroughly after bathing or exercise
- People with a compromised immune system – including people with Diabetes and HIV.
- Poor peripheral circulation
- Warm, moist environment from occlusive footwear
- Working in a wet environment
Onychomycosis is difficult to treat primarily because nails grow very slowly. The nail is made up of protein similar to hair and isn’t able to regenerate, so treatments generally work by reducing the spread of the fungus and waiting for the nail to grow out.