Fungal Toenails

Alternative names

Nails - fungal infection; Onychomycosis;


Fungal nail infection is an infection of the nails by a fungus.

Causes, incidence, and risk factors

The body normally hosts a variety of microorganisms, including bacteria and fungi. Some of these are useful to the body. Others may multiply rapidly and form infections. Fungi can live on the dead tissues of hair, nails, and outer skin layers and are also the cause of Athlete's Foot.

Fungal nail infections are most often seen in adults. They often follow fungal infection of the feet. Fungal nail infections may be difficult to treat and may recur often. Toenails are affected more often than fingernails.

People who frequent public swimming pools, gymns, or shower rooms -- and people who perspire a great deal -- commonly have mold-like infections, because the fungi that cause them thrive in warm, moist areas.

The risk of getting a fungal infection is increased by closed-in footwear, prolonged moist skin, and minor skin or nail injuries.


Nail changes on one or more nails (usually toenails):

Signs and tests

Your doctor will suspect a fungal infection based on the appearance of the nails. The diagnosis can be confirmed by scraping the nail for a culture, or a microscopic examination to indentify the type of fungus.


Over-the-counter creams and ointments are generally not very effective at completely eliminating the fungus, but according to some studies over-the-counter treatments can help the nail look better and reduce symptoms.

What we can do for you in our office

For more definitive treatment make an appointment to see us. We may take a sample of the nail (no pain involved - just a little clipping) to send for a lab test to see if the nail has a fungal infection and if so, what kind of fungus. This information will help us decide the most appropriate treatment for your condition. We'll review in detail with you the available prescription treatments for fungal nails including details on the advantages and disadvantages of each. Once your lab tests are back, we'll provide information on the treatment most likely to provide the best outcome.

Prescription anti-fungal medicines taken by mouth may help clear the fungus in about 50% of patients. However, such medicines can cause side effects or may interfere with other health medicines the patient is taking.

In some cases, the nail be removed by the doctor. Nails grow slowly, so even if treatment is successful, a new, clearer nail may take up to a year to grow in.

Expectations (prognosis)

Fungal nail infections may be difficult to treat and may become a reservoir for fungal organisms, causing them to return in the skin or nails. The fungal nail infection is cured by the growth of new, non-infected nails. Even with successful treatment, a relapse is common.














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