Nails - fungal infection; Onychomycosis; Infection - fungal - nails; Tinea unguium
Fungal nail infection is a fungus growing in and around your fingernail or toenail.
Fungi can live on the dead tissues of the hair, nails, and outer skin layers.
Common fungal infections include:
Fungal nail infections often start after a fungal infection on the feet. They occur more often in toenails than in fingernails. And they are most often seen in adults as they age.
You are at higher risk of getting a fungal nail infection if you:
Symptoms include nail changes on one or more nails (usually toenails), such as:
Your health care provider will look at your nails to find out if you have a fungal infection.
The diagnosis can be confirmed by looking at scrapings from the nail under a microscope. This can help determine the type of fungus. Samples can also be sent to a lab for a culture. (Results may take up to 3 weeks.)
Over-the-counter creams and ointments usually do not help treat this condition.
Prescription antifungal medicines that you take by mouth may help clear the fungus.
Laser treatments may get rid of the fungus in the nails.
In some cases, you may need to have the nail removed.
The fungal nail infection is cured by the growth of new, non-infected nails. Nails grow slowly. Even if treatment is successful, it may take up to a year for a new clear nail to grow.
Fungal nail infections may be hard to treat. Medicines clear up fungus in about half of people who try them.
Even when treatment works the fungus may return.
Call your health care provider if:
Good general health and hygiene help prevent fungal infections.
Ferri FF. Onychomycosis. In: Ferri FF, ed. Ferri's Clinical Advisor 2015. 1st ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier Mosby; 2014:section 1.
Habif TP, ed. Clinical Dermatology. 5th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier Saunders; 2009:chap 25.
Hay RJ. Dermatophytosis and other superficial mycoses. In: Mandell GL, Bennett JE, Dolin R, eds. Mandell, Douglas, and Bennett's Principles and Practice of Infectious Diseases. 7th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier Churchill Livingstone; 2009:chap 267.
Last reviewed on: 11/14/2014
Reviewed by: Richard J. Moskowitz, MD, dermatologist in private practice, Mineola, NY. Review provided by VeriMed Healthcare Network. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Isla Ogilvie, PhD, and the A.D.A.M. Editorial team.