Fungal Nail Infection
Fungal infections of the nail is also known as onychomycosis. The responsible fungus is usually the same as that causes athlete’s foot – a common infection of the skin of the feet, especially between the toes. Fungal infections of the toenails are more common than those of fingernails. Both are seen most often in the elderly, those with impaired immune systems, and in people with diabetes and poor blood circulation. The nails become discoloured, thick and crumbly, hard to trim, and occasionally causes pain. Many nail problems can look like a fungal infection – for example the changes seen in psoriasis. Fungal nail infections are usually diagnosed clinically and can be successfully cured with appropriate treatment.
Acute paronychia is an infection of the skin just next to a nail which develops quickly and lasts for a short period of time. The infected nail is very painful, looks swollen and red. There may also be a small collection of pus in the swelling. The nail itself may become infected or damaged if it is left untreated. It can be easily treated with the correct choice of antibiotics. Occasionally a small operation is needed to drain out any pus which has collected.
Chronic paronychia is a disease of multiple etiology. It is most common in people who often have their hands in water, detergents or chemicals, have poor circulation (cold hands and feet) or diabetes. Women get chronic paronychia more often than men. The condition is associated with itching and pain of the affected nail. The nail changes in shape, colour, or texture and skin around the nail is swollen, red and pigmented. It can mimic a fungal infection of the nail. General preventive measures and topical creams form the cornerstone of treatment.