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Fungal infection that causes the fingernails or toenails to thicken, discolor, disfigure and split is called onychomycosis. Without treatment, the nails will turn so thick that they press against the side of the shoes, causing strain, irritation and pain.

Trichophyton rubrum and trichophyton mentagrophytes are the primary fungi that cause onychomycosis. They are dermatophytes and feed on keratinized tissue. The infections they cause are usually confined to the nails, but occasionally extend to the surrounding skin. Another kind of onychomycosis is caused by yeast (candida albicans or candida parapsilosis). These infections are less frequent and produce similar symptoms.

Onychomycosis Skin diseases

Onychomycosis is not easy to treat because nails develop slowly and receive very little blood supply. However, there have been new advances in treatment options, including oral and topical medications. Oral antifungal medications typically are administered over a three month period. Topical antifungal treatment consists of a nail lacquer that is applied daily to affected nails. This medication does not have any contraindications but it may irritate surrounding skin in rare cases. Because nails develop very slowly, it usually takes 6 months to a year for the nail to recover a healthy, clear, thin appearance. However, onychomycosis is a continuing fungal infection and individuals with the condition should seek treatment.

Diabetic patients commonly develop onychomycosis because blood circulation is reduced in the extremities, and the body's capability to fight infections is compromised. Small cuts, infections, and foot injuries can have serious consequences for diabetics. Current studies have revealed a higher rate of amputation in diabetics with onychomycosis compared to those without the infection. It is important to examine the feet closely each day and work with a physician on a plan of thorough foot care.

As with several diseases, there are also some scientifically unproven folk or substitute medicine remedies such as tea tree oil which is known antifungal. Another one is grapefruit seed extract. Many studies indicate that the common antimicrobial activity is due to contamination with synthetic preservatives that were not likely to be made from the seeds of grapefruit. Distilled white vinegar can also be applied. Drops are applied to the cuticle twice a day until the fungus disappeared. This process does not kill the fungus, but the vinegar allegedly changes the pH of the new nail formed in that twelve-hour period.

Recommendation is given to maintain the nails cut short and filed; to prevent trauma or irritations to the nails; to keep them cool and dry; and to wear good shoes that are not too tight or narrow.

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