Nail Fungus

Nail fungus, or onychomycosis, is a fungal infection in your toenail or fingernail. Nail fungus is more common in toenails than fingernails. The cause of the infection may not be known.

What increases my risk for nail fungus?

  • Athlete's foot
  • Age 60 years or older
  • Conditions such as diabetes, circulation problems, or a weak immune system
  • Wearing heavy work boots that make your feet warm and sweaty
  • Walking barefoot in locker rooms or public showers
  • Working in a job where your hands are often wet (dishwashers, house cleaners)
  • An unhealthy nail or underlying nail deformity

What are the signs and symptoms of nail fungus?

  • Nails that curl up or down or are misshapen
  • Discolored (often white, yellow, or brown) nails
  • Fragile or cracked nails
  • Thick nails or nails with rough, jagged edges
  • Nail that is separated from the nail bed
  • Tenderness or pain in the affected nail

How is nail fungus diagnosed?

Your healthcare provider can usually diagnose nail fungus by examining your nails. A small nail clipping may be examined or sent to a lab to test for infection.

How is nail fungus treated?

Antifungal medicine is a pill that treats a fungal infection. You may need to take this medicine for up to 12 weeks. Topical treatments include creams and polishes that you apply to the top of your nail. You may need to use topical treatments for up to 1 year before you see positive results. Ask your healthcare provider for more information about antifungal medicine.

How can I manage my symptoms?

  • Use antifungal sprays or powders. You can buy these at your local drugstore.
  • Keep your nails short and file down any thick areas. Use separate nail trimmers and files for infected nails and healthy nails. If you go to a salon to get your nails done, bring your own nail files and trimmers.

How can I help prevent nail fungus?

  • Dry your feet with a towel or hair dryer after you bathe.
  • Do not wear tight-fitting shoes or shoes that pinch your toes. Avoid shoes made from rubber or plastic.
  • Wear socks that absorb moisture. This includes socks make of wool, nylon, or polypropylene. Do not wear cotton socks. Change your socks if they are damp from sweat or your feet get wet. Put on dry, clean socks every day.
  • Do not go barefoot in locker rooms or public showers.
  • Do not use nail polish or artificial nails such as acrylic or gel nails.
  • Wear gloves that are waterproof if you work with water.

When should I contact my healthcare provider?

You have questions or concerns about your condition or care.