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Nail fungal infection (onychomycosis)
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Nail fungal infection (onychomycosis)

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INFECTIOUS DISEASE

Fungal

WOMEN'S HEALTH

Hair/Nails/Skin

A fungal infection of the nail (onychomycosis) occurs when fungi infect one or more of your nails. Onychomycosis usually begins as a white or yellow spot under the tip of your fingernail or toenail. As the fungal infection spreads deeper into your nail, it may cause your nail to discolor, thicken and develop crumbling edges - an unsightly and potentially painful problem.

Treatment

Nail fungal infections can be difficult to treat, and repeated infections are common. Over-the-counter antifungal nail creams and ointments are available, but they aren't very effective. Fortunately, other nonsurgical treatments have been introduced during the last 10 years.

To treat a nail fungal infection, your doctor may prescribe an oral antifungal medication, such as:

  • Itraconazole (Sporanox)

  • Fluconazole (Diflucan)

  • Terbinafine (Lamisil)

These medications help a new nail grow free of infection, slowly replacing the infected portion of your nail. You typically take these medications for six to 12 weeks but won't see the end result of treatment until the nail grows back completely. It may take four to 12 months to eliminate an infection. Recurrent infections are possible, especially if you continue to expose your nails to warm, moist conditions. Antifungal drugs may also cause side effects ranging from skin rashes to liver damage, and doctors may not recommend them for people with liver disease or congestive heart failure or those taking certain medications.

If you have a mild to moderate infection, your doctor may prefer to prescribe an antifungal nail polish. The Food and Drug Administration has approved a topical antifungal lacquer called ciclopirox (Penlac Nail Lacquer), which you paint onto your infected nails and surrounding skin once a day. After seven days, you wipe the piled-on layers clean with alcohol and begin fresh applications. Daily use of Penlac for up to one year or longer has been shown to help clear nail fungal infections, but researchers found that it cured the infections in less than 10 percent of people using it.

Your doctor may also opt for other topical antifungal medications, such as oxiconazole (Oxistat) or econazole nitrate (Spectazole). In some cases, you may be advised to use these creams with an over-the-counter lotion containing urea to help speed up absorption.

If your nail infection is severe or extremely painful, your doctor may suggest removing your nail. A new nail will usually grow in its place.

Nail fungal infection > 1 > 2 > 3 > 4

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This information is provided for general medical education purposes only and is not meant to substitute for the independent medical judgment of a physician relative to diagnostic and treatment options of a specific patient's medical condition.
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Last Modified : 03/15/08 12:45 AM