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Onychomycosis: Symptoms, Risks and Complications

Onychomycosis: Symptoms, Risks and Complications

Onychomycosis or nail fungus is one of the nastiest medical conditions you can contract. Keep in mind that this isn't a life-threatening condition.

In fact, you probably won't experience any serious issues. But, if not treated, it can easily spread. The fact that others may contract it from you makes it that much more problematic. 

Nail fungus may lead to certain complications if you don't treat it. The problem is mostly visual, and it is often followed by pain and discomfort.

Here are some of the main things you need to know about onychomycosis, potential symptoms, and how to treat it properly. Read on!

Main things to know

Onychomycosis is a medical problem that can first appear in the form of nail discoloration. It can affect both your toenails and fingernails.

If the problem remains untreated, the discoloration will worsen, it will become more obvious, and your nails will become much thicker. At the later stages, the nails will start crumbling, losing their form, and eventually, they will fall off altogether.

As you can guess, nail fungus is caused by fungus. It is an infection that will affect one nail, but, as time passes, it has a good chance of spreading to other nails as well. Most people tend to neglect the issue at first. In some cases, they might not even notice it. But, as the condition worsens, you will most definitely need treatment. 

The worst thing about nail fungus is the fact it is a really persistent condition. It may take months and months until you get rid of it. This is especially true if you allowed the infection to spread.

Even if you seemingly eliminated the fungus, there is a good chance it will reappear. Onychomycosis is followed by a lot of pain, and it can especially be troublesome if your nail falls off. 

Oftentimes, people mistake nail fungus for athlete's foot. While nail fungus affects the nails themselves, an athlete's foot appears between toes and skin.

Onychomycosis symptoms

Generally speaking, it is really easy to diagnose onychomycosis. The symptoms are quite noticeable, and you will see visual changes way before you feel any pain.

The list of symptoms includes nail thickness, discoloration, change in nail texture and quality, dark color appearing beneath your nails, a slight change in smell. Although the issue may appear both on nails and toenails, it is much more common on toenails.

Another issue with this condition is that most people take it for granted. Given that the initial discoloration doesn’t seem serious, we tend to prolong a doctor’s visit. This can be an issue as fungus starts to spread on the initial nail, even affecting the surrounding tissue.

You should visit a doctor as soon as possible. Even if you avoid going for the initial check-up, you should definitely react once the nail becomes discolored, thickened, or deformed.

Onychomycosis is especially troublesome for people who are suffering from diabetes. If you have this condition, and you’ve noticed symptoms of nail fungus, make sure to contact your doctor as soon as possible!

Fungal infection can appear at any time and regardless of age. But, it is much more common among the elderly. As with any other organ or tissue, we become more susceptible to infections as time goes by.

A nail becomes dry and brittle, which creates an entry point for fungus to penetrate. There are also some other things that may increase the chance of infestation, such as weak immune system or slow circulation.

Keep in mind that onychomycosis can spread to other people, but it isn’t that common.

Major risk factors

There are lots of risk factors that may increase the odds of infestation:

  • People who are sweating heavily are more likely to develop it
  • Nail fungus is more common among the elderly.
  • Slow nail growth
  • Continuous exposure to fungi
  • People who are prone to athlete’s foot
  • Swimmers and other individuals who walk around barefooted around swimming pools
  • It is common among people who regularly go to the gym
  • It can be caused by nail injuries or certain skin issues
  • Nail fungus is more common among people who are suffering from diabetes, have weak immunity, or issues with circulation

Potential complications

As already mentioned, onychomycosis isn't that dangerous, and most people will treat it successfully without encountering severe symptoms. However, that doesn't mean that the condition will not lead to some serious problems. There are numerous complications that may occur to people who are suffering from it for a longer period of time.

The main complication is severe pain. Toenails and nails can be very sensitive. The issue can be even worse if the nail falls off, and the tissue becomes exposed. If you're really unlucky, you might experience permanent nail damage. In some cases, the patients have experienced additional infections. The issue may spread around, and this is especially common for those who have a weak immune system.

Complications may also appear in patients who are simultaneously suffering from diabetes. Another potential risk factor is a bacterial skin infection or cellulitis. So basically, any damage to your nails or skin surrounding your nails can lead to the spread of infection.

How to prevent it?

Today, there are a lot of medicines and home remedies that can help you treat the condition. However, the best cure is prevention.

Here are six things that you can do in order to avoid this issue. These prevention measures are especially important for people who are otherwise prone to nail fungus.

  • Make sure to wash your hands and feet regularly. Dry them properly and always have a towel that is specifically used for hands and feet
  • Always moisturize your nails after you wash them
  • Keep your nails and toenails nice and short. They should have smooth edges. You can also use a file
  • Wear open shoes and flip flops. Use shoes made from natural materials; materials that allow your skin to breathe
  • Change your socks regularly
  • Use nail supplies and tools that were previously sterilized. Avoid nail salons that don’t have good hygiene standards
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