Nail Fungal Infection

A nail fungal infection changes the way fingernails and toenails look. They may thicken, discolor, change shape, or split. This condition is hard to treat because nails grow slowly and have limited blood supply. The infection often comes back after treatment.

There are 2 types of medicines used to treat this condition:

  • Antifungal medicines for the skin (topical). These are applied to the skin and nail area. These medicines don't work well because they can’t get deep into the nail.

  • Oral antifungal medicines. These medicines work better because they go into the nail from the inside out. But the infection may still come back. It may take 9 to 12 months for your nail to look normal again. This means you are cured. You can repeat treatment if needed. Most people take these medicines without any problems. It's rare to stop therapy because of side effects. But your healthcare provider may give you some monitoring tests. Talk about possible side effects with your provider before starting treatment.

If medicines fail, the nail can be removed surgically or chemically. These methods physically remove the fungus from the body. This helps medical treatment be more effective.

If the changes in your nails are not bothering you, you may not need treatment. Discuss this with your healthcare provider.

Home care

  • Use medicines exactly as directed for as long as directed. Treating a fungal infection can take longer than other kinds of infections.

  • Smoking is a risk factor for fungal infection. This is one more reason to quit.

  • Wear absorbent socks, and shoes that let your feet breathe. Sweaty feet increase your risk of fungal infection. They also make an existing infection harder to treat.

  • Use footwear when in damp public places like swimming pools, gyms, and shower rooms. This will help you stay away from the fungus that grows there.

  • Don't share nail clippers or scissors with others.

Follow-up care

Follow up with your healthcare provider, or as advised.

When to seek medical advice

Call your healthcare provider right away if any of these occur:

  • Skin by the nail becomes red, swollen, painful, or drains pus (a creamy yellow or white liquid)

  • Side effects from oral anti-fungal medicines

© 2000-2021 The StayWell Company, LLC. All rights reserved. This information is not intended as a substitute for professional medical care. Always follow your healthcare professional's instructions.
Powered by Krames Patient Education - A Product of StayWell