Onychomycosis is a fungal infection of the nails, commonly seen in adults and generally occurs in around 10% of the population.
The risk of this condition increases with age however, and by the age of 70 years almost 50% of the population can suffer from Onychomycosis, accounting for 20% of all nail diseases.
Accounts for 20% of all nail diseases
50% of the elderly are affected
1 in 3 diabetics have Onychomycosis
1 in 10 Australians are affected
Since Onychomycosis has specific characteristic features, the initial diagnosis is made by a visual examination of your nails. Laboratory tests can be used to confirm this diagnosis, however the results may take a few weeks before they are available.
Lateral Onychomycosis: You may see a white or dense yellow streak at one side of your nail.
Subungual Hyperkeratosis: You may notice scaling under your nail, which is a build-up of yellow skin cells.
Distal Onycholysis: The end of your nail may lift up and the free edge will often crumble.
Superficial white Onychomycosis: You might see the appearance of flaky white patches and pits on the upper surface of your nail.
Proximal Onychomycosis: Some people see yellow spots appearing in the half-moon of their nails.
Onychoma/Dermatophytoma: This is a thick localised area of infection seen in the nail plate and can involve the complete destruction of the nail.
Onychomycosis of the toenails usually affects either the big toenail or the little toenail and usually presents in the following ways:
Are you at risk of contracting Onychomycosis?
Even though Onychomycosis is quite prevalent in the population, you might never experience this condition. It is however, common in certain people, so if you have any of the following risk factors, it is important that you are vigilant in caring for your fingernails and toenails.
- Age: The older you become, the more chance you have in contracting Onychomycosis. This might be due to other risk factors or simply because you start to have difficulties in caring for your feet and toenails.
- Poor peripheral circulation: People with poor circulation to their feet may well suffer from fungal infections in their toenails.
- Diabetes: Since diabetes can affect your peripheral circulation, you may be more prone to fungal infections of the extremities.
- Psoriasis: If you suffer from psoriasis, you are likely to also suffer from Onychomycosis.
- Immunodeficiency: A weakened immune system compromises your ability to fight infections, increasing your risk of acquiring numerous infections, including Onychomycosis.
- Hereditary: If you have a family history of fungal infections, you are more likely to suffer from some form of Onychomycosis than those without such a history.
- Playing sports: Warm, wet environments encourage the growth and spread of Onychomycosis, so swimmers in particular are susceptible to Onychomycosis.
1. KENG-EE THAI, 2014 (Medicine Today: DECEMBER 2014, VOLUME 15, NUMBER 12)
2. Westerberg DP, Voyack MJ (Dec 1, 2013). “Onychomycosis: current trends in diagnosis and treatment.”