Nail Fungal Infection

A nail fungal infection can affect your fingernails or toenails. It's more common in toenails. A nail fungal infection changes the way fingernails and toenails look. They may thicken, discolor, change shape, or split. Nail fungal infections can be hard to treat because nails grow slowly and have limited blood supply. The infection often comes back after treatment.

Talk to your healthcare provider about treatment options. There are 2 types of medicines used to treat this condition:

  • Topical antifungal medicines. These are applied to the nail area. These medicines may not work well because they can’t get deep into the nail. However, newer topical medicines penetrate the nail better and can possibly cure the fungus. Follow your healthcare provider's instructions about how to use these medicines.

  • Oral antifungal medicines. These medicines work better because they are taken by mouth and treat the fungal infection 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. Your healthcare provider may have you 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. Follow your healthcare provider's instructions about how to use these medicines.

If medicines fail, a healthcare provider can surgically or chemically remove the nail. 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.

  • Keep your feet clean and dry. Wear socks made with wicking material that pulls moisture away from your skin, 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. Don't go barefoot. 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 get 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

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