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What is Toenail Fungus?

Onychomycosis is a medical term for a common nail disorder, popularly referred to as toenail fungus. This ailment is caused due to various fungi types and leads to considerable nail damage. The fungus develops in dark and damp surroundings so people wearing tight and closed shoes or women applying multiple nail polish coats are more prone to toenail fungus. That is because the fungus, once formed, thrives by gnawing away at the toenail protein called keratin.

Toenail fungus is a syndrome that happens in at least 2 % to 18% of the worldís population and in about 3% to 5% of Americans. The good news is that it is less likely to affect children under 18, but the older one grows, the more vulnerable they become to this problem. Itís surprising how more than 2.5 million Americans suffering from this malady, despite their podiatristís advice, think it insignificant to get treated. Probably it is not yet considered a dreadful problem but the fact is that the fungus is contagious and can spread from one foot to the other. The infection is more evident in public areas like gym locker rooms or inside showers, in people like athletes and military staff or those suffering from health disabilities like HIV etc.

The Symptoms:

The most visible symptoms of an infected toenail are its yellowish or brown colour and its unnatural thickness. A malodorous pile of dirt settles within and as the situation worsens, the nail becomes brittle and dry and ultimately peels off. Thus, as soon as either of these syndromes make themselves obvious, itís crucial to get a diagnosis and an opinion from a specialist. The doctor will consider various factors like your occupation, the style of your shoes, foot hygiene habits, chronic illnesses etc. to assure himself that it is toenail fungus and not psoriasis of the nail. Samples of your nail will be scrutinized via a lab test for the fungi.


The fungus usually does not heal by itself, but stays on for a very long time till the nail falls off. But in most cases even the newly growing nail is infected as well. The best way to avoid the mess is to take appropriate preventive measures like:

o Wearing open and comfortable shoes
o Clean your feet daily and apply a good powder to avoid friction
o Ensure that your socks and stockings are hygienic
o Allow the body some breathing space by using suitable and not too tight hosiery
o Avoid walking barefoot in public showers and gym locker rooms
o Opt for a regular pedicure and get the toenails trimmed
o Ensure that the tools used for a pedicure are disinfected

Nail Fungus Treatment:

The problem is treated by first eradicating the infected part of the nail. The doctor can either clip it off or dissipate it with a urea and bifonazole paste. In case of a slight infection, one can use a medicated nail varnish consisting of Loceryl (containing amorolfine) or Loprox (containing ciclopirox) that should be used twice weekly. For a more intense contamination, the doctor advises an oral antifungal medicine like Sporanox (containing itraconazole) which can be taken every day for about 3 months. The caveat here is that itraconazole might lead to certain side effects. In the most hopeless of cases, it might become necessary to surgically remove the nail. So, once the treatment has been availed of and even if the fungus has been eradicated, do not expect the nail to recuperate entirely in terms of the aesthetic sense. Also there are chances of a relapse in about 10% to 20% cases.

About the Author: Cathy Gates writes on various types of nail fungus. More information available at

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