Medical Definition of Tinea unguium

  • Medical Author:
    William C. Shiel Jr., MD, FACP, FACR

    Dr. Shiel received a Bachelor of Science degree with honors from the University of Notre Dame. There he was involved in research in radiation biology and received the Huisking Scholarship. After graduating from St. Louis University School of Medicine, he completed his Internal Medicine residency and Rheumatology fellowship at the University of California, Irvine. He is board-certified in Internal Medicine and Rheumatology.

Tinea unguium: The most common fungus infection of the nails, also called onychomycosis.

Onychomycosis makes the nails look white and opaque, thickened, and brittle. Those at increased risk for developing onychomycosis include:

  • People with diabetes;
  • People with disease of the small blood vessels (peripheral vascular disease); and
  • Older women (perhaps because estrogen deficiency increases the risk of infection); and
  • Women of any age who wear artificial nails (acrylic or "wraps").

Artificial nails increase the risk for onychomycosis because, when an artificial nail is applied, the nail surface is usually abraded with an emery board damaging it, emery boards can carry infection, and water can collect under the artificial nail creating a moist, warm environment favorable for fungal growth.

An alternative name is dermatophytic onychomycosis.

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Reviewed on 12/27/2018

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