Onychomycosis is an infection of the nail caused by a fungus. The infection occurs more often on toenails than fingernails.

  • Causes

    Onychomycosis is caused by a fungus that infects the nail. The fungi that cause onychomycosis survive in warm, moist environments. It is spread through direct contact with the fungus.

  • Definition

    Onychomycosis is an infection of the nail caused by a fungus. The infection occurs more often on toenails than fingernails.

    Fungal Infection of the Toenails
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  • Diagnosis

    Your doctor will ask about your symptoms and medical history. A physical exam will be done. You may need to be referred to a doctor who specializes in skin and nail disorders (a dermatologist). The doctor may scrape or clip the nail to send a sample for testing. Results make take several weeks.

    Tests on the nail sample may include:

    • Culture
    • Examination under a microscope

  • Prevention

    To help reduce your chance of getting onychomycosis, take the following steps:

    • Keep your feet clean. Dry them completely after washing.
    • Keep your hands dry and wear rubber gloves when cleaning.
    • Keep nails short and clean. Trim them straight across.
    • Do not trim or pick at the skin near your nails.
    • Avoid injuring your toenails.
    • Avoid shoes that are too tight.
    • Wear absorbent cotton socks. Change them if they become damp.
    • Avoid walking barefoot around swimming pools, locker rooms, and other public places.
    • Avoid artificial nails. They can trap moisture.
    • If you have diabetes, see your doctor about steps you can take to control your blood sugar.

  • Risk Factors

    Anyone can get fungal nail infections. Risk factors that increase your chances of developing onychomycosis include:

    • Wearing shoes that trap in moisture and warmth, such as workboots
    • Increased age
    • Having athlete's foot
    • Having an injury to the nail
    • Type 1
      Type 2

    • Circulatory disorders, such as
      peripheral vascular disease

    • Immune system disorders, such as

  • Symptoms

    Onychomycosis can affect one or more nails. It most commonly occurs on toenails.

    Symptoms include:

    • Thickened nail that is difficult to cut
    • Brittle or ragged nail
    • Discolored or unsightly nail
    • Pain in the nail when doing ordinary activities

  • Treatment

    Nails grow slowly. It can take up to a year to have a completely clear nail. Onychomycosis can be difficult to treat and may return after treatment. Talk with your doctor about the best treatment plan for you. Treatment options include the following: