Onychomycosis refers to fungal infection of the fingernails or toenails, and is a common problem, especially within the elderly population. While the infection may cause the nail to become thicker and give it a yellowish, whitish or brownish appearance, the actual infection does not usually cause any symptoms that are bothersome. Therefore, the usual reason that patients request treatment is for cosmetic purposes.
Superficial infections of the nail plate may respond to topical treatment with anti-fungal medication. However, any deep-seated infection of the nail will require oral systemic medication. Oral medication may be combined with removal of the nail plate if the nails are extremely thick. Newer medications such as fluconazole, itraconazole and terbinafine have come onto the market and have led to greater response rates than older medications; they have the added benefit of requiring shorter courses of treatment and causing fewer side effects as well. Eradication of fungal infections of the toenail typically require at least 3 months of treatment, and may require up to 6 months in some patients. Fingernail infections tend to respond better, and may only require 6 weeks of treatment for complete eradication to occur. You should see your primary care physician
to discuss the different options that are available.