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Onychomycosis: Causes, Risk Factors, And Treatment

Onychomycosis: Causes, Risk Factors, And Treatment

Take a close look at your fingernails. Are they strong and healthy looking? Or do you notice areas of unusual color, like yellow or white and thickening of the nail? It either is a condition that can be avoided through proper fingernail care, or it might indicate an underlying condition that needs attention. So, one should not only focus on the external appearance of their nails but also in keeping them healthy.

Onychomycosis – also known as tinea unguium, is one of the fungal infections of the fingernails or toenails. It is usually characterized by white or yellow nail discoloration, thickening of the nail, and separation of the nail from the nail bed. Although both fingernails and toenails may be affected, it is more common to happen to toenails.

Various types of fungus trigger Onychomycosis such as dermatophytes (tinea unguium) and Fusarium. The most suitable environments or situations for this infection to occur are athlete’s foot, other nail diseases, having contact with someone who already has the condition, peripheral vascular disease, and a weak immune system. In order to be diagnosed, laboratory testing or appearance check-up is required.

To know the proper treatment options to treat this fungal infection, one should first be aware of its causes. Scroll down to find out:

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Causes of Onychomycosis

Some of the factors that increase the risk of common onychomycosis infections are:


The older you are, the higher is the risk of getting infected with onychomycosis condition. This is due to the fact that the process of the nail growing in older people is slower.  They also have difficulties taking care of their feet and toenails and may have poor peripheral blood circulation, diabetes, and a weakened immune state. All these factors can increase the chances of developing the infection.

Genetic factors

According to some research, some people seem to be naturally more susceptible than others to fungal infections such as onychomycosis. So, you are more likely to become infected with fungal nail infections if you have a family history of the disease.

Poor peripheral blood circulation

Having a poor peripheral blood circulation makes you more vulnerable to fungal infections.


Sports, like swimming, may be a factor to increase the risk of onychomycosis. This comes as a result of having constant contact with water and being exposed to pathogenic fungi.


As with other types of infections, a weak immune system makes your more prone to having onychomycosis.


Diabetes affects the circulatory system; it has shown to increase the risk of getting infected with onychomycosis.


People who have psoriasis are more prone to developing the infection, rather than people who do not.


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Risk Factors

According to Galderma, some of the risk factors of this nail infection are:

– Extended exposure to water

– Smoking

– Frequent consumption of sweets, pastries, etc.

– Excessive use of detergents

– Prolonged wear of plastic gloves

– Exposed professions such as hairdresser, podologist, manicurist

– Repeated microtrauma to nails

Credit: Federica Giusti / Unsplash


Treatment of Onychomycosis

There are several treatment options to treat onychomycosis. Depending on the severity of onychomycosis, sometimes, different treatments are combined.

Some of the available treatments for fungal nail infections are:

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Mechanical treatment typically includes filing and trimming of infected nails. Sometimes, if the infection is severe, partial or complete removal of the nail is required.


Topical treatment involves solutions of antifungal agents that are applied directly onto the infected nails. The antifungal agents’ function is to kill the fungus and stop the infection from spreading to healthy parts of the nail.

Systemic or oral

Systemic treatment includes taking capsules or tablets, that contain antifungal agents. So, this time the agents are swallowed and absorbed by the body and sent from to the nails through the blood.


Apart from the treatment options mentioned above, lifestyle choices matter. Some of the options that may help to treat onychomycosis or prevent it from coming back are as below:

– Avoid bare feet when possible. You can use sandals in public showers or slippers in hotel rooms.

– Use different pair of shoes periodically, to avoid warm and moist environments, which are the perfect criteria for fungi to grow. You can also decontaminate your shoes with antifungal treatments.

– Make sure to dry your feet and the space between toes.

– Trimming nails straight across rather than rounding them can help prevent fungal infections such as onychomycosis.

– Wear clean, dry socks on every day, preferably 100% cotton socks. Socks should be washed at 60°C, to eradicate the fungal cultures.

– After curing onychomycosis, wear new shoes to prevent infection from recurring.



Disclaimer: The contents of this article: text, graphics, images, and other materials contained are strictly for informational purposes only. The Content is NOT intended to be used as a substitute for professional medical diagnosis, advice, or treatment. Please ALWAYS seek the advice of a qualified health provider with all the questions that you have related to, or about, a medical condition.


You might also want to read: Paronychia: What Is It, What Causes It And How To Prevent It

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