Fungal Nail Infection: Causes & Treatments

Overview

Fungal infections can affect any part of the body. Fungi are normally present in and on the body alongside various bacteria. When a fungus begins to overgrow, you can get an infection.

Onychomycosis, also called tinea unguium, is a fungal infection that affects either the fingernails or toenails. Fungal infections normally develop over time, so any immediate difference in the way your nail looks or feels may be too subtle to notice at first.

Who Is at Risk for Fungal Infections?

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There are many different causes of fungal nail infections, and each cause has a treatment of its own. Although many of the causes of a fungal nail infection are preventable, some risk factors increase the likelihood of developing it. You’re more likely to develop a fungal nail infection if you:

  • have diabetes
  • have a disease that causes poor circulation
  • are over age 65
  • wear artificial nails
  • swim in a public swimming pool
  • have a nail injury
  • have a skin injury around the nail
  • have moist fingers or toes for an extended time
  • have a weakened immune system
  • wear closed-toe shoes, such as tennis shoes or boots

How Is a Fungal Nail Infection Treated?

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Over-the-counter products aren’t usually recommended to treat nail infections because they don’t provide reliable results. Oral antifungal medication that your doctor may prescribe are:

  • terbinafine (Lamisil)
  • griseofulvin (Gris-Peg)
  • itraconazole (Sporanox)
  • fluconazole (Diflucan)

You may use other antifungal treatments, such as antifungal nail lacquer or topical solutions. These treatments are brushed onto the nail in the same way that you would apply nail polish. Depending on the type of fungus causing the infection, as well as the extent of the infection, you may have to use these medications for several months. Topical solutions are not generally effective in curing toenail fungal infections.

Tips to Prevent Fungal Nail Infections

  • using antifungal sprays or powders regularly
  • avoiding being barefoot in public places
  • reducing your use of artificial nails and nail polish
  • wearing socks that minimize moisture
  • washing your hands after touching infected nails
  • getting manicures or pedicures from trustworthy salons
  • using your own items for manicures or pedicures
  • drying your feet well after showering, especially between your toes