Fungal Nail Infections
What is a fungal nail infection?
A fungal nail infection occurs when a fungus attacks a fingernail, a toenail, or the skin under the nail, called the nail bed. Fungi (plural of fungus) can attack your nails through small cuts in the skin around your nail or through the opening between your nail and nail bed.
See a picture of a fungal nail infection.
If you are healthy, a fungal nail infection probably won't cause serious problems. But it may look bad, hurt, or damage your nail or nail bed.
A fungal nail infection could lead to more serious problems if you have diabetes or a weak immune system. Talk to your doctor about the best way to treat a nail infection if you have one of these problems.
What causes a fungal nail infection?
Yeasts, molds, and different kinds of fungi can cause fungal nail infections. Most are caused by the same type of fungus that causes athlete's foot.
Fungi grow best in warm, moist places, and they can spread from person to person. You can get a fungal nail infection from walking barefoot in public showers or pools or by sharing personal items, such as towels and nail clippers. If you have athlete's foot, the fungus can spread from your skin to your nails.
You are more likely to get a nail infection if you:
What are the symptoms?
A nail with a fungal infection may:
When you have a fungal nail infection, it can be uncomfortable or even painful to wear shoes, walk, or stand for a long time. The fungus could also spread to other nails or your skin. Over time, the infection can cause permanent damage to your nail or nail bed.
How is a fungal nail infection diagnosed?
Your doctor will diagnose a fungal nail infection by looking at the nail, asking about your symptoms and past health, and possibly doing tests to look for fungi. Finding out what is causing the infection can help you get the best treatment.
How is it treated?
Whether to treat a fungal nail infection is up to you. If it is not treated, it won't go away, and it might get worse. But fungal infections can be hard to treat. If you do treat it, you could spend a lot of money, and the treatment might not work.
If you decide to treat a fungal nail infection, you can try an antifungal cream, lotion, or nail polish. You can buy some types without a prescription, or your doctor can prescribe a stronger one. You may need to use this medicine for a few weeks or for as long as a year. Even so, it may not get rid of the infection.
Antifungal pills give the best chance of curing a severe fungal nail infection, but they may cost a lot and have serious side effects. You will need to see your doctor for regular testing if you take these pills. You should not take them if you have liver or heart problems.
How can you prevent a fungal nail infection?
Fungal nail infections often come back after treatment. It is important to take steps to prevent this.
Frequently Asked Questions
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