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Onychomycosis - Pictures, Symptoms, Causes, Treatment

Updated on December 4, 2013

Onychomycosis Pictures

What is Onychomycosis?

This is a medical term that is used to describe the medical condition in which your fingernails or toenails become infected by fungi. The parts that can be affected can by your nail plate, nail bed, etc. It is not a life-threatening medical condition but it can interfere with your daily activities. You are four times more likely to get onychomycosis in your toenails than your fingernails. It can spread from foot to foot or nail to nail but it rarely spreads to your fingernails or hands. Over fifty percent of disorders of the nails are caused by this medical condition and is very common in adults. Adults are thirty percent more likely to have it than children. Approximately two point six percent of children under the age of eighteen have onychomycosis. Ninety percent of older adults have it. In the United States between two and thirteen percent have onychomycosis. Men more than women will commonly have this medical condition.


Normally there are no symptoms unless the affected nail gets so thick that when you wear shoes it causes pain. You can have onychomycosis for several years before you begin to have symptoms.

  • The earliest symptom is when a yellow or white spot occurs under the tip of the nail that is affected.
  • When the infection spreads deeper the affected nail could become thick. The edges of the nail may also start to crumble.
  • The nail could lose its luster and have a distorted shape
  • Under the nail there may be a buildup of dark material that can have a foul smell.
  • As the affected nail gets thicker it can interfere with exercising, walking, and standing.
  • Having pain, loss of dexterity, or discomfort
  • Inhibited social interaction or loss of self esteem because of the way the affected nail looks.
  • Brittle nails
  • Lifting up or loosening of your nail.


The group of fungi that will commonly cause onychomycosis belongs to a group called "dermatophytes". In some instances it can be caused by molds and yeasts. These types of organisms like to reside in moist and warm environments such as swimming pools, showers, and locker rooms. If you have a wound or tiny cut near your nails these types of organisms can get into your body and cause an infection. The main reason that your toenails are more vulnerable to onychomycosis is that they are exposed to more dark, moist, and warm environments such as inside your shoes. Fungi thrive better in places that are dark. Comparing toenails and fingernails it is found that your toenails have blood circulation that is reduced which can keep your immune system for working efficiently. When this happens your immune system does not detect fungus in your toenails and eliminate it. Sometimes it is caused by a person who sweats a lot. You may also get it if you get a pedicure or manicure with tools that have been used on someone else who has onychomycosis.


It is a very difficult medical condition to treat and sometimes it is impossible to treat onychomycosis.

  • There are over-the-counter ointments and creams you can purchase but they usually do not help treat onychomycosis.
  • Your physician may prescribe antifungal medication taken by mouth to help clear up the fungus. If you are prescribed medication you will need to take it for two to three months if the medical condition affects your toenails. If it is your fingernails the time to take it will be shorter.
  • They can use laser treatment to get rid of the fungus.
  • In some cases you may have to have the affected nail removed.
  • Prescription topical treatments but this is usually just used for mild cases.

Sometimes the treatments used for toenails have to continue for ten to eighteen months. You will have to have monthly laboratory monitoring. This is to check for different side effects that can occur while on medications. One side effect is liver toxicity. Whatever treatment is being used it needs to continue until you have a culture of microscopic exam and that show the fungal infection is gone. The nails may still look damaged after the treatment is completed. It can take up to twelve months before your nail returns to normal. If your nail growth stops or slows down you may need to have more doses of antifungal therapy.


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    • john000 profile image

      John R Wilsdon 4 years ago from Superior, Arizona

      Lots of good information. Will refer to. Thank you.