(301) 515-FEET

Fungal Toenails

A toenail infection that is caused by a fungus is called Onychomycosis (say: "on-ee-koh-my-ko-sis").

Doctor dermatologist examines the foot on the presence of athlete’s footThis is an infection that can make your nails thick and discolored. You may even have pain in your toes.

Who gets fungal nail infections?

Anyone can get a fungal nail infection. These infections are more common in adults older than 60. They are especially common in people with diabetes or circulation problems. Children hardly ever get fungal nail infections.

Why did I get a fungal nail infection?

It may be hard to know where or how you got a fungal nail infection. A warm, wet place is a good place for a fungus to grow. If you often wear heavy work boots that make your feet warm and sweaty, a fungus can grow around your toenails. If you often walk barefooted in locker rooms, you can pick up a fungus from the warm, wet floors.

Sometimes several people in a family will get fungal infections in their nails at the same time. This can happen because their immune systems aren’t able to fight off the infection very well or because the infection is being passed when they use the same towels.

How do I find out if I have a fungal nail infection?

If you think you have a fungal infection in your fingernails or toenails, see your doctor. By looking carefully at your nails, your doctor might be able to tell if you have an infection.

To be sure of what kind of infection you have, your doctor might scrape a little bit of tissue from your nail and send it to a lab. It might be a few weeks before your doctor gets the results of the lab test. The test can tell if you have a fungal infection or another kind of infection.

How is a fungal nail infection treated?

Several medicines can treat a fungal nail infection. Some of these medicines are not safe for people who have liver problems or a history of congestive heart failure. Be sure to let your doctor know if you have one of these conditions. Your doctor will decide which medicine is right for you.

You might only need to take the medicine for 6 weeks. You might need to take it for 6 months, or longer. It depends on where the infection is and how bad it is.

What can I do to take care of my nails?

Here are some things you can do to take care of your nails if you have a fungal infection:

  • Keep your nails cut short and file down any thick areas.
  • Don’t use the same nail trimmer or file on healthy nails and infected nails. If you have your nails professionally manicured, you should bring your own nail files and trimmers from home.
  • Wear 100 percent cotton socks. Change your socks when they are damp from sweat or if your feet get wet. Put on clean, dry socks every day. You can put over-the-counter antifungal foot powder inside your socks to help keep your feet dry.
  • Wear shoes with good support and a wide toe area. Don’t wear pointed shoes that press your toes together.
  • Avoid walking barefoot in public areas, such as locker rooms.