What causes nail fungus or onychomycosis?
Onychomycosis, or fungal infection of the nail, is the most common of all diseases of the nails in adults. The incidence of nail fungus increases with age, and as many as 90% of the elderly population have fungal nails. Diabetes and a suppressed immune system are also risk factors.
While the condition can be regarded as merely a cosmetic problem, it can have negative effects on patients’ emotional and social well being.
Onychomycosis often begins as an infection in the skin in the foot, mainly in between the toes called tinea pedis (also known as athlete’s foot). The fungus often starts under the nail fold at the end of the nail. Over time it breeds underneath the nail plate and causes changes to its appearance, such as a yellow/ brownish, white or even green discoloration. It can also cause thickening and deformity of the toenail. The nail can become brittle.
Many people have difficulty with their toenails and need assistance in caring for them. A foot and ankle surgeon can diagnose the cause of toenail problems and recommend treatments for nail problems. It is important for diabetics to have their nails and feet examined.