This patient information and photograph on Onychomycosis (Nail Fungus) is provided by John L. Meisenheimer, M.D. a board certified Dermatologist and skin care specialist based in Orlando, Florida. This information is not intended as a substitute for the medical advice or treatment of a dermatologist or other physician.
What is it? Onychomycosis is a common fungal infection of the nails. It can occur at any
age, but it is more frequently seen in adults. Typically it begins as a yellowish discoloration under the nails. The nail may thicken and separate from the nail bed, and later debris may accumulate under the nail.
What causes it? This is a fungal infection of the nails. This fungus only infects susceptible individuals. It is not clearly understood why some people are susceptible to infection and others are not, but most dermatologists believe that it is due to differences in the immune systems.
Is it dangerous? For the typical healthy person Onychomycosis is a harmless infection. It is not related to cancer and it does not involve internal organs. In some individuals it can be symptomatic and require more aggressive therapy.
Can it be cured? Onychomycosis is very difficult to cure, and the success rate for long lasting cure is very low. Fingernails tend to respond to treatment better than toenails, but months of therapy will be needed before the nails respond. Many elect to have treatment even though the long lasting cure rate is low. The decision of whether to treat is made on an individual basis.
Will it spread? With time other nails may become involved. Treatment may help prevent some of this spread.
Is it contagious? It is only contagious to people who are susceptible to the fungus. Since the fungus is found so many places, there is little a person can do to avoid infection if they are susceptible.