Fungal infections, or onychomycosis, can occur in the fingernails and toenails of both men and women. Less severe cases of nail fungus may be unsightly and embarrassing, and more advanced cases of nail fungus can even be painful, so it is ideal to seek treatment as soon as you detect nail fungus symptoms. Susceptibility to nail fungus is hereditary, and most people contract a fungal infection in their nails after exposure to certain types of yeast or dermatophytes (fungi common in the skin) often found in showers, swimming pools, inside your shoes or other warm, moist environments.
Nail salons may also spread nail fungus to clients who have manicures or pedicures performed with nail care tools and equipment that has not been properly sanitized after use. Most fungal nail infections start with a small white or yellow patch appearing in your nail. As the fungus spreads over time, nails may darken and become dull. They may also begin to distort, thicken or grow brittle. The worst cases of nail fungus results in painful separation of the nail from the nail bed. The end result of untreated nail fungus is ragged, unhealthy looking nails that may eventually even emit a foul odor.
Oral medications, such as Lamisil and Sporanox anti-fungal drugs, are among the most effective nail fungus treatments. Topical creams may be prescribed in conjunction with oral medications, however they typically do not offer an independent cure. For particularly painful or advanced cases of nail fungus, surgical intervention may be necessary, but this is uncommon.
Most nail fungus treatment regimens take several weeks to complete, and it takes about 4 months for a healthy new nail to grow out after nail fungus treatment has eliminated the fungal infection.