A fungal nail infection, referred to in medical terms as onychomycosis, occurs when fungi (a kind of microorganism) infect your nails. You may first notice the infection as a white or yellow spot under the tip of your nail. Symptoms of a fungal infection may include brittleness, discoloration, thickening and crumbling of the nail, as well as debris under the nail itself. In some cases, the nail can detach from the nail bed.
Approximately 50% of all nail disorders are fungal infections. There are many contributing causes, including physical damage to the nail, a weakened immune system due to conditions such as diabetes and cancer, and/or overexposure to water or detergents.
Treatment of a fungal nail infection can take a while to complete, and is best begun at the early stages of infection, before it has spread deeper into the nail. See your doctor or podiatrist right away if you see any change in your nail or feel swelling or pain. Fungal infections used to be difficult to treat, but new therapies can often permanently heal your nails.
Fungal nails are one of the most difficult nail condition to treat. Treatment generally involves reducing the thickness of the nail and using a anti-fungal medication. The appearance of your nail will improve as your nail is slowly replaced by healthy nail. It is important to keep in mind that this process can take up to 6 months for fingernails and 18 months for toenails. Even in successful cases, relapse is common. Therefore, your doctor or podiatrist may want you to return for periodic visits to evaluate the progress and outcome of your treatment.