A fungal nail infection is a condition in which a fungus or yeast infects the nails.
A fungal nail infection is usually caused by a fungus called Trichophyton.
Fungal skin infections, such as athlete's foot, often lead to fungal nail infections. It is most common in adolescent and adult males and is rare in women and children under age 12. The fungus that causes the infection lives in warm, moist environments such as showers and locker rooms. A person is more likely to develop a fungal infection if he or she:
Nails infected with a fungus may have the following characteristics:
If a toenail becomes thick, it can be painful to wear shoes.
Diagnosis of a fungal nail infection begins with a medical history and physical exam. The healthcare provider may cut a small portion of the nail plate. It is sent to a lab so the organism can be identified.
It is hard to prevent a fungal nail infection, but here are a few tips:
Fungus can cause the nail plate to come loose from the skin. This enables water or sweat to get under the nail. Bacteria can build up and cause skin breakdown. This can lead to a secondary bacterial infection. The infection can result in cellulitis, which is an infection of the connective tissue under the skin. Rarely, sepsis, or blood poisoning, can occur.
Fungus may be transmitted to others who share bathing facilities or footwear.
Treatment of a fungal nail infection includes the following:
Antifungal ointments may cause an allergic reaction. Oral antifungal medications may cause stomach upset or allergic reaction.
Antifungal medications are expensive and require monitoring by the healthcare provider for the length of treatment. Once the medicine is stopped, it may take several months before the nail plate is cleared of the fungus. The fungus can, and often does, return. Any new or worsening symptoms should be reported to the healthcare provider.
Author:Bill O'Halloran, DPM
Editor:Cafiero, Celeste, MA
Reviewer:Janet E. Simon, DPM