Nail fungus, also called onychomycosis, is a common condition estimated to affect up to 10% of the population worldwide. It can cause nails to become yellow or discolored. As the infection advances the nail can become thick, brittle and separate from the nail bed. It can also cause pain when wearing shoes or walking. This article provides information about the causes of nail infections and available treatment options. The benefits, disadvantages and risk of each treatment is discussed. You should discuss your medical condition and treatment with your doctor.
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You may suffer from nail infection(onychomycosis) if you have one or more of the following symptoms:
- Discolored nails
- Yellow streaks under the nail
- Distorted or thickened nails
- Brittle, crumbly or ragged nail
- Nails separated from the underlying skin
- Buildup of debris (nail fragments, skin) under the nail
- White spots or streaks on the nail surface
Current treatment options for nail infection include oral drugs, topical drugs and laser. No single treatment is effective in all patients and there are risks and benefits associated with each one. Be sure to discuss all your treatment options with your doctor.
Oral drugs can be very effective in eliminating nail infections and restoring clear nails. The drugs must be taken for 6 to 12 weeks and may cause side effects including headache, diarrhea, upset stomach and skin rash. Serious side effects include risk of liver damage and heart failure. Weekly blood tests may be required to monitor liver function. These drugs are not used for patients in poor health or who have liver disease. Topical drugs are less effective in treating nail infections and restoring clear nails. The drugs are applied directly to the nails daily for up to 12 months. In some patients, the drug is ineffective because it cannot pass through the nail to reach the infection. There are no significant side effects. Laser treatments are effective in eliminating nail infections and restoring clear nails. Most patients experience at least some improvement. During treatment most patients experience a warm feeling in their toes. A clinical study reported no adverse effects related to the laser.