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Other Names:
Onychomycosis
Fungal Nail Infection

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Definition

This disease is an infection of the nails by a fungus.

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Causes

  • Fungal nail infections are caused by a group of fungi called dermatophytes. These are the same fungi that cause athlete's foot, jock itch and ringworm infections. Some of the nail infections may also be caused yeast-like fungi (such as Candida).

  • Fungal nail infections most often follow fungal skin infections and occur more frequently in the toe nails versus finger nails.

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Symptoms

  • Brittle and crumbly nails
  • Discolored and thickened
  • Loss of luster and shine
  • Distorted nail shape
  • Buildup of black, yellow or greenish debris under the nails
  • Nails may become loose and detach easily

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Implications

Fungal nail infections can be serious and can damage your nails permanently. The infection can spread beyond the nails and involve skin of other parts of the body, causing secondary skin infection, open sores, skin ulcers and paronychia. Fungal nail infections, especially in people with diabetes or weakened immune system can cause a potentially serious complication. The blood circulation and nerve supply to the feet can be impaired in these conditions leading to tissue death and gangrene. Recurrent nail infections are possible, especially if you continue to expose your nails to warm, moist conditions or discontinue treatment.

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What You Can Do

  • Medications
    • Oral anti-fungal medications such as Itraconazole (Sporanox), Fluconazole (Diflucan) and Terbinafine (Lamisil)

    • Topical anti-fungal medications in the form of creams and ointments such as oxiconazole (Oxistat) or econazole nitrate (Spectazole).

    • Antifungal nail lacquer (nail polish) called ciclopirox (Penlac Nail Lacquer). This nail polish can be applied onto the affected nail and the surrounding area of skin once a day for seven days. After seven days the area of piled-up layers of nail polish is wiped away with alcohol and start to re-apply the nail lacquer. It may take up to one year or more daily applications to clear the infection.
  • Prevent ion............................................................Practice good Foot and Hand Hygiene
    • Dry your hands and feet, particularly between your toes, thoroughly after a bath or a shower.

    • Trim your nails straight across and file down the roughened and thickened areas.

    • Wear socks that are made of soft and absorbable material preferably cotton. Change them daily if possible

    • Remove your shoes for a few minutes during the day and especially after exercise or walking.

    • Wear shoes that have open toes once-in-a-while allowing your feet to "breath".

    • If you will be wearing your shoes for a long time in warm weather, use an antifungal spray or powder on your feet or the inside of your shoes.

    • Wash your hands thoroughly after contact with any fungal infection in the body.

    • Do not trim the skin around your nail. A cut may give germs an entry into your skin and nails.

    • Wear shoes around public pools, showers and locker rooms.

    • Make sure that the manicure or pedicure salon uses sterilized instruments.

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Fungal Nail Infections