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What causes Onychomycosis

What causes Onychomycosis
Onychomycosis is a fungal infection that affects the nails , mainly those of the feet. The infection usually starts in one of the big toes, but it can infect other nails on the same foot over time. It is common for people who have onychomycosis to simultaneously suffer from athlete's foot , which is also caused by fungi, but in this case it would only affect the skin .

It is a common infection that can affect between 4% and 18% of the population. Its prevalence increases with age, and there are also more cases in some specific groups, such as athletes , ranchers or the diabetics .

People become aware of the infection when they notice changes in the color or shape of the nail. As it is not a disease that causes great initial discomfort, people who have it do not consult the doctor soon, which makes the infection completely invade the nail and be more difficult to solve.

The most common thing is that onychomycosis remains as a aesthetic alteration of the nail, but sometimes it produces chronic pain that is difficult to solve. Therefore, it is best to diagnose the infection as soon as possible and treat it. Today there are several treatment options, although oral antifungal drugs remain the main option for treating onychomycosis.

Causes of Onychomycosis

Onychomycosis is caused by dermatophyte type fungi. These fungi are capable of invading keratinized skin structures such as hair and nails. The fungus that causes onychomycosis in most cases is Trichophyton rubrum . Other fungi that can cause this infection are Trichophyton mentagrophytes or even Candida albicans (which is not a dermatophyte fungus).

These fungi are transmitted by direct contact and coexist with us without causing infection, until certain factors favor it. Some of the risk factors for developing onychomycosis are:

  • He aging . Over the years we accumulate more fungi that colonize the foot, and our body's defenses are weaker.
  • Keep your foot moist , as happens with swimmers and athletes.
  • Having ringworm in the foot or athlete's foot .
  • suffer others skin diseases , such as psoriasis.
  • The diabetes , which negatively affects our body's immune defenses.
  • Have relatives with onychomycosis , both because it may indicate a certain genetic predisposition and because of the possible transmission of the fungus.
  • Immunosuppression , caused by chemotherapy, HIV, or biological drugs.

Symptoms of Onychomycosis

The onychomycosis It rarely causes discomfort to people who suffer from it. Sometimes it can give some mild pain, which can become chronic if the involvement is extensive. In addition, it is a gateway for various germs that can cause other infections such as cellulitis.

The main problem, however, is aesthetic. The symptoms of onychomycosis They are precisely the alterations that the affected nails present, which change color and shape, taking on an unpleasant appearance. Depending on the type of alterations, they can be divided into several groups:

  • Distal subungual : This is the most common type of involvement in the big toe. The free edge of the nail begins to turn yellow and thicken. The surface becomes rougher and may fragment.
  • Proximal subungual : the root of the nail, where it grows, is damaged first. Yellowish or whitish areas are seen that move towards the free end.
  • Superficial whitening : in this case the infection begins with a whitening of the nail surface. They appear first as small dots that later join together and form larger areas.
  • Melanonychia : that term means 'pigmented nail' or 'brown nail'. It is a very rare form of melanonychia caused by fungi other than the genus Trichophyton. Sometimes the nail becomes so dark that a differential diagnosis must be made with the melanoma and subungual hemorrhage.
  • Onychodystrophy : it is in most cases the final stage of all variants of nail infection. This is the name given to the total deformation of the nail, which becomes very thickened, curved, and falls apart into fragments easily.

Prevention of onychomycosis

The Measures to avoid nail fungal infection are the following:

  • Keep the foot dry and ventilated.
  • Use drying powders inside your shoes when playing sports.
  • Maintain basic hygiene measures to keep your hands and feet clean.
  • Detect alterations in the nails early.
  • Do not share shoes with family or friends, especially those who may have onychomycosis.

Remember that prevention is better than cure

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