Fungal nail infections

Fungal nail infections are relatively common and can be a consequence of athlete’s foot. The nails become thickened and discoloured. They can become brittle and break easily; they may even have a crumbly appearance. Sending some clippings of the nail to the laboratory, where the spores of the fungus can be seen under the microscope, can make the diagnosis. The organism can be cultured and identified. This process takes at least three weeks.

If a fungal infection is confirmed, depending on the organism, the most effective form of treatment is to take some oral medication. A lengthy course of treatment of 3-6 months is usually necessary if there is to be a chance of cure. The nail does not return to normal immediately, but you will be able to see the growth of healthy nail appearing from the cuticle upwards. Bear in mind however, that while fungal nail infections don't look very nice, they won't cause you any harm. Oral anti-fungal drugs do have side-effects, the commonest being tummy upset, however occasionally there are side-effects which can be severe. Be sure to weigh up the pros and cons of treatment. Treatment is more justifiable if the nail is ingrowing or painful, particularly if you are diabetic.

Certain organisms respond to a topical treatment, particularly if the area of infection is small.

Further information

This article published on
12 December 2005

Next review date 12/1/2013



Areaof the body

Skin and hair

Male or female?


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