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Nail Fungus Information and Treatment

Nail fungus (onychomycosis) is a fungal infection of the fingernails and toenails. These fungal infections usually cause discoloration, thickening and often softening of the nails. If the problem is caused by a bacterium, the condition is called paronychia. The nail fungus is initially a cosmetic concern. Without treatment however, the nails may become so thick that they press against the inside of the shoes, causing pressure, irritation, and pain. Toenail fungus appears as yellowing, thickening, or crumbling of the nail. Sometimes there may be white spots or yellow, brown streaks of discoloration with loosening of the nail plate. Nail fungus affects about half of Americans by the age of 70. War veterans often have an increased incidence due to exposure to environmental conditions such as swamps and boots. Rarely does this occur in children. Nail fungus is becoming more common in the US. The rise in nail fungus is thought to be due to a combination of increased detection as well as increased risk of infection. Factors that contribute to this increased risk include aging of the population, spread of HIV/AIDS, tight footwear, vigorous physical activity, and use of communal swimming pools, locker rooms, etc.

Nail fungus is a compilation of fungal organisms which make their way under one's nail bed. There are many different types of nail fungus which individuals can obtain which makes it difficult to prevent. A group of fungus called dermatophytes is the main cause behind this infection. The two most affected toe fingers are the big toe finger and the little toe finger. Toenail fungus is harmful, as it leads to disfiguration and discoloration of the toenails. Toenail fungal infection is a contagious disease. Nail fungus is more than a cosmetic problem. It can be painful and interfere with daily activities such as walking, writing, typing, and other activities that require manipulating small objects or repetitive finger use. An international study conducted by dermatologists found that nail fungus had a significant impact on the quality of life of people with the disease. The main problems identified were embarrassment, functional problems at work, reduction in social activities, fears of spreading the disease to others, and pain. Nail fungus must be treated with medication once it occurs. Rarely, surgery may be necessary.

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