- 6 Treatment Options
- Risk Factors
Fungal toenail infections are not serious but may take a long time to treat. You can treat toenail fungus with oral and topical antifungal medications, medicated nail polish, laser therapy, and more.
Studies report that taking oral antifungal drugs and applying topical medications to your nails may be more effective than using either treatment alone.
6 treatment options for toenail fungus
- Prescription oral antifungals
- Generally prescribed for 6 to 12 weeks
- Examples include:
- Topical medications
- Most effective when paired with oral medications
- The FDA has approved the following medicines to be applied to the nail to treat nail fungus:
- Possible side effects include redness and swelling, an ingrown toenail, and stinging or burning when the medicine is applied
- Nonprescription options
- Certain antifungal creams, gels, and nail polish are available without a prescription.
- Though studies report mixed results, home remedies such as a menthol rub, tea tree oil, or snakeroot extract, may be beneficial.
- Medicated nail polish
- Your doctor may prescribe an antifungal nail polish called Penlac (ciclopirox)
- Infected nails and surrounding skin should be painted once a day for almost a year
- Laser treatment
- A high-tech laser beam is directed at the affected toenail to treat the fungus
- Cure rates for laser treatment are lower than for oral and topical medications
- Nail removal
- In cases of severe infection or if other treatments do not seem to work, your dermatologist may recommend removing the nail to get rid of the infection.
- Nail removal can be surgical or nonsurgical (chemical is applied to the nail)
What are signs of a fungal toenail infection?
Fungal nail infections usually affect toenails but can affect fingernails as well
Toenail fungus occurs when fungi infect the space between the toenail and toenail bed (tissue underneath the toenail) through a crack or cut in the toe. Fungal toenail infection or tinea unguium can change the appearance of the nails, making them look:
- White, yellow, or brown
- Chalky or cloudy in some spots
- Cracks or breaks in one or more spots
Toenail fungus can spread to:
What causes a fungal toenail infection?
Tinea unguium or onychomycosis is a type of infection that primarily targets the toenails and is caused by a dermatophyte, a type of mold. Dermatophytes are responsible for 90% of all toenail fungal infections.
Dermatophytes are microorganisms that need a protein called keratin to grow and thrive. Keratin is the predominant structural material of nails that makes them hard.
Different types of toenail fungus are contagious. You can get it from someone else through direct contact or by touching an infected surface. You can get toenail fungus by:
- Walking around the swimming pools
- Using a public locker room or shower
- Walking barefoot in a public area
The fungi usually infect a nail by getting into one of the following:
- Small cuts in the skin surrounding the nail
- Crack in the nail
- Space between the nail and toe
What are risk factors for fungal toenail infection?
Although toenail fungus can affect anyone, certain risk factors can increase the chances of developing the condition:
- Older age, especially older than 60 years
- Family history of nail infections
- Tinea pedis (athlete’s foot)
- Nail injury
- Hyperhidrosis (a disorder characterized by increased sweating)
- Poor blood circulation due to peripheral vascular disease
- History of receiving an organ transplant
- Weakened immune system, such as from an autoimmune disorder or HIV
How is toenail fungus diagnosed?
Your doctor will examine the affected toenail to evaluate your symptoms and detect the presence of toenail fungus. To confirm a diagnosis, they may order certain tests:
- Tissue samples may be taken from underneath the nail to visualize the cells under a microscope
- Scraping can be sent to see if the fungus grows out of the culture to identify the type of fungus
How can I prevent toenail fungus?
Fungal nail infections develop when the feet are constantly warm and damp. Steps you can take to help prevent toenail fungus include the following:
- Keep your feet clean and dry
- Wear clean socks every day
- Avoid wearing shoes that make your feet hot and sweaty
- Avoid going barefoot in communal areas, such as public showers, locker rooms, and swimming pools
- Do not tear or rip your toenails
- Soak your toenails in warm water before cutting them to avoid trauma due to accidental or aggressive clipping
- Clean your nail trimmer before using it
- Do not share towels, shoes, nail clippers or scissors
- If you have diabetes, follow all foot care recommendations from your doctor
- Treat the athlete's foot as soon as possible to stop it from spreading to the nails
Toenail Fungus. https://my.clevelandclinic.org/health/diseases/11303-toenail-fungus
Nail Fungus: Overview. https://www.aad.org/public/diseases/a-z/nail-fungus-overview
Toenail Fungus Treatments. https://www.webmd.com/skin-problems-and-treatments/treat-toenail-fungus
Nail fungus. https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/nail-fungus/symptoms-causes/syc-20353294
Top How Do You Treat Fungus on Your Toe Related Articles
clotrimazoleClotrimazole is a drug prescribed to treat local fungal infections such as vaginal yeast infections, oral thrush, athlete's foot, and jock itch. The most commonly noted side effects associated with clotrimazole include local redness, stinging, blistering, peeling, swelling, itching, hives, or burning at the area of application. Clotrimazole has no known drug interactions. Consult your doctor if pregnant or breastfeeding.
Ingrown Toenails: Infection, Causes, Prevention, SurgeryHow are ingrown toenails removed? What about ingrown toenail infections? Get informed about the causes of ingrown nails, as well as prevention tips for ingrown toenails. Pain and swelling can be the initial symptoms of an ingrown toenail. Learn about ingrown toenail surgery and the best medications.
Toenail Color HealthWhat can the color of your toenails tell you about your health? Watch for these shades to know if you need to talk to your doctor.
Fungal Skin Infections: Types, Symptoms, and TreatmentFungal skin infections and fungal nail infections produce symptoms like red, itchy, circular rashes and thick, discolored, flaky nails. Fungal infection treatment may involve topical medication or oral antifungals.
Fungal Nail Infection PictureNails that are infected with a fungus may become discolored (yellowish-brown or opaque), thick and brittle, and may separate from the rest of the nail. See a picture of Fungal Nail Infection and learn more about the health topic.
Fungal NailsFungal nails (onychomycosis) may be caused by many species of fungi, but the most common is Trichophyton rubrum. Distal subungal onychomycosis starts as a discolored area at the nail's corner and slowly spread toward the cuticle. In proximal subungal onychomycosis, the infection starts at the cuticle and spreads toward the nail tip. Yeast onychomycosis is caused by Candida and may be the most common cause of fungal fingernail.
How Do You Fix an Ingrown Toenail?Learn how to treat an ingrown toenail and avoid them in the future.
How Do You Get Rid of Athlete's Foot Fast?Athlete’s foot (tinea pedis) is caused by a variety of fungi belonging to a group of fungi called dermatophytes, which also causes ringworm and jock itch. Rarely, an athlete’s foot may be caused by nondermatophytes infection, such as yeast (candida). Athlete's foot usually begins between the toes, presenting with a scaly rash associated with itching, stinging, and burning.
How Do You Get Rid of Black Under Your Toenails?Treatment of black under the toenails depends on the underlying cause. Learn about how to get rid of black toenails as well as causes and prevention. Check out the center below for more medical references on foot problems and nail color changes, including multimedia (slideshows, images, and quizzes), related diseases, treatment, diagnosis, medications, and prevention or wellness.
tolnaftateTolnaftate is an antifungal medication available over the counter (OTC) as creams, solutions, aerosols, and aerosol powders used topically to prevent and treat superficial fungal infections of the skin, such as athlete’s foot, jock itch, and ringworm infections. Common side effects of tolnaftate include local irritation, stinging of skin, itching (pruritus), contact dermatitis, and sensitization. Consult your doctor before taking if pregnant or breastfeeding.
undecylenic acidUndecylenic acid and derivatives are a topical antifungal medication used to treat superficial fungal skin infections, including ringworm, athlete’s foot and jock itch. Undecylenic acid and derivatives are available over the counter (OTC) in the form of powder, solution, spray, cream, ointment, and soap. Common side effects of undecylenic acid and derivatives include skin irritation, burning, and sensitivity. Consult with your doctor before taking if pregnant or breastfeeding.
What Does a Cancerous Toenail Look Like?A cancerous toenail typically starts with a brown or black streak under the nail, which is often mistaken for a bruise. Check out the center below for more medical references on cancer, including multimedia (slideshows, images, and quizzes), related disease conditions, treatment and diagnosis, medications, and prevention or wellness.
What Is the Main Cause of Fungal Infection?The main cause of fungal infections are the result of compromised immunity (either local immunity over skin or systemic immunity in certain conditions).