Onychomycosis is an infection of the finger or toenail, which is common in elderly people. Toenails are naturally white, because they are constantly exposed to bacteria and fungi. As a result of fungal attack, the nails become yellow, brown or black in color. The usual symptoms of onychomycosis are discolored and thickened nails. It can spread to other fingers and toes, causing severe damage if left untreated.
Onychomycosis, or tinea unguium as it is sometimes called, is a bacterial infection of the toenail. Sometimes, onychomycosis has nothing to do with the healthy nail; sometimes it is an indication that a systemic fungal infection is present. The antifungal drug terbinafine usually taken orally appears to be the best antiseptic but is often associated with liver problems as well. Topical antifungals like Nystatin and Terbinafine are available without a prescription, but there is no documented evidence that they improve onychomycosis.
Topical antifungals are usually applied locally and do not appear to be very effective against onychomycosis. Efinaconazole has been used for years to treat fungal infections of the toenail. Its most common side effects are itching and redness. A few cases have reported that nail loss occurred in some patients taking efinaconazole. There are also several other topical medications available that may be prescribed for onychomycosis; however their efficacy is not known. Some patients find that homeopathic remedies (like vinegar or tea tree oil) help to soothe the discomfort and prevent the infection from spreading.
Oral medications are more effective against fungal nail infections, especially those caused by dermatophytes. They can be particularly effective when administered combined with other medications such as efindaconazole, or when used alone. Oral medications for onychomycosis should not be taken for long periods because prolonged treatment may result in systemic antifungal infection. Fluconazole is an oral antifungal commonly taken in conjunction with other topical medications. People with respiratory infections, diabetes, or HIV/AIDS should not take fluconazole due to the risks of side effects.
Fungal infections of the toenails are caused by a fungus called dermatophytes, which are a type of opportunistic infection. They multiply rapidly and cause marked tissue damage. Nail fungi may include species like dermatophytes, Alternaria, ustularia and tinea versicolor. The diagnosis of onychomycosis often involves performing a medical biopsy (removing a small portion of tissue for analysis) that reveals the exact nature and location of the fungal invasion along with revealing any other health problems associated with it. Other signs that suggest onychomycosis include discolored toenails and thick, brittle nails that break easily.
Onychomycosis of the skin includes more common types of fungal infections such as athlete's foot, jock itch, and candida. Treatment options include antifungals like Nystatin, Miconazole, and Tioconazole. Topical antifungals like terbinafine and tenting tape can also be used for severe cases. Severe cases of onychomycosis can lead to permanent scarring. In order to avoid this, doctors prescribe extensive antifungals in order to prevent the infection from spreading.
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