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What causes nail fungus?

Onychomycosis is caused by a fungus. It digests keratin, which is a tough, protein, component of the nail. The fungus may enter between the hard nail plate and the nail bed which is the softer tissue underneath the nail. As the infection progresses, organic debris accumulates under the nail often discoloring it. Other infectious organisms may be involved. The nail plate may separate from the nail bed and crumble off. The nail may also become thick and/or misshaped. Onychomycosis is not a problem to be ignored - it will not clear up on its own! In fact, if left untreated, it can spread to other nails and make everyday activities, such as walking or writing, painful and difficult.

Treatment

There are many good treatment options you and your doctor can chose from to help clear up onychomycosis:

Systemic treatments (taken by mouth in a pill form)
Surgical and chemical treatments
Topical treatments
Nail lacquer

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Make an appointment with your doctor if your nails looks discolored, abnormally thick, if you have swelling on the skin surrounding the nail, or you have a nail which appears to have separated from the nail bed. Only your physician can make the proper diagnosis and treatment regimen.

Since treating nail fungus can take some time - up to six months - be patient! Follow the advice of your doctor and, most importantly, stick with the treatment regimen.

Prevention

Those who become infected vary by occupation. Generally, people who work or play where their hands are continually exposed to moisture are at greater risk. Also, if you have a relative who had it, you are more likely to get it, as are those with certain types of immune diseases.

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