Types of Onychomycosis: Which One Are You Suffering From?

toe fungus HoustonOnychomycosis is commonly known as nail fungus, tinea unguium and/or nail ringworm. It’s a chronic fungal infection of the fingernails and toenails that affects about six to eight percent of people.

Onychomycosis usually causes the toenails to take on a yellow color. The condition may also damage the integrity of affected nails and they may crumble or break easily. This fungal infection usually doesn’t cause nail pain, but it does look very painful and it is pretty easy to notice. In severe cases, toenails may be painful.

Common Causes

Onychomycosis is commonly caused by:

• Fungal organisms such as Candida (yeast)
• Dermatophytes
• Non-dermatophyte moulds.

It is often picked up in damp areas such as swimming pools, shower and public gyms. Many fungal organisms especially the dermatophytes grow in warm damp areas.

In many cases, it is not just the toenails that can get fungal infections as the fungi sometimes spreads from the skin to the nails.


You may have an onychomycosis if one or more of your nails are:

• Ragged, crumbly or brittle
• Thickened
• Dull, with no shine or luster
• Distorted in shape
• A dark color, caused by debris developing under your nail

Types of Onychomycosis

Distal Subungual Onychomycosis
One of the most common types of onychomycosisis is distal subungual onychomycosis. This is usually caused by Trichophyton rubrum, which attacks the nail bed and the underside of your nail plate. Susceptibility to this type of fungal infection may occur in an autosomal dominant pattern within families.

White Superficial Onychomycosis
This type of fungal infection is caused by the dermatophyte Trichophyton mentagrophytes. It occurs on the outermost surface of the nail and usually appears as white spots. It is one of the easiest types of fungual infections to treat accounting for only ten percent of all cases of onychomycosis.

Proximal subungual onychomycosis
The least common fungal type is usually found in immuno-compromised patients.

This fungus initially affects the nail at the proximal nail fold. This is located close to the cuticle where the newly formed nail plate comes out.

The first symptom of this infection includes yellow or white discoloration of the nail. It eventually results in crumbling and thickening of the nail.

Candidal Onychomycosis
This type of onychomycosis is caused by the Candida albicans, a diploid fungus related to yeast. It usually develops in nails that are frequently immersed in water or have sustained prior injury or trauma.

The early signs of this infection include:

• A clouding of your nail surface
• Inflammation and pain of the skin surrounding your nail.
• If left untreated, pus at the edge of your nail.


Fungal infections can be treated in a number of different methods. The one your podiatrist prescribes will depend on the infection and other circumstances.

Most of these methods usually take several weeks to show improvement. You need to be fastidious about following the routine recommended by your podiatrist. In certain cases, topical medications may be prescribed. These are lotions and creams which you will apply as your podiatrist sees fit.

Oral medications are also usually used to treat fungal infections. There are a range of over-the-counter drugs available today. But many can cause health problems for those people with certain health conditions. Thus, be sure that your podiatrist is aware of your medical history.

Laser treatment, however, is a safe and effective way to treat toenail fungus. It has almost no side effects, but you will still want to discuss it with your doctor.

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