Fungal Nail Infections: Types, Causes, and Treatments

Foot & ankle specialists

Fungal nail infections, also known as onychomycosis, are a common condition that affects the nails. They occur when fungi, such as dermatophytes, invade the nails and cause an infection. Fungal nail infections can affect both toenails and fingernails, leading to discoloration, thickening, and brittleness of the nails. Understanding the different types of fungi that can affect the nails, their causes, and available treatments is important for managing and preventing these infections. Let's explore this topic in detail.

Types of Fungi that Affect the Nails:

  1. Dermatophytes: These fungi are the most common cause of fungal nail infections. They thrive in warm and moist environments, making nails susceptible to infection. Dermatophytes can invade the nail bed, nail plate, or the skin around the nails.
  2. Yeasts: Candida species are yeasts that can cause nail infections. They typically affect fingernails rather than toenails. Yeast infections are more common in individuals who frequently expose their hands to water or have weakened immune systems.
  3. Non-Dermatophyte Molds: Certain molds, such as Scopulariopsis brevicaulis or Aspergillus species, can also infect the nails. These molds are typically found in soil, plants, or decaying matter and can enter the nails through cuts or openings.

Causes of Fungal Nail Infections:

Several factors can contribute to the development of fungal nail infections:

  1. Warm and Moist Environments: Fungi thrive in warm and moist conditions, making public pools, gyms, and communal showers common sources of infection.
  2. Trauma to the Nails: Injuries or repeated trauma to the nails can create openings for fungi to enter and cause an infection.
  3. Weakened Immune System: Individuals with weakened immune systems, such as those with diabetes, HIV, or on immunosuppressive medications, are more susceptible to fungal infections, including nail infections.
  4. Poor Nail Hygiene: Inadequate nail hygiene, such as not trimming nails properly or failing to keep them clean and dry, can increase the risk of fungal nail infections.

Treatments for Fungal Nail Infections:

  1. Topical Antifungal Medications: Over-the-counter or prescription-strength antifungal creams, lotions, or nail lacquers can be applied directly to the affected nails. These treatments help kill the fungi and promote the growth of healthy nails.
  2. Oral Antifungal Medications: In severe or resistant cases, oral antifungal medications may be prescribed. These medications are taken for a specified period and work systemically to eliminate the infection.
  3. Laser Therapy: Laser treatment is a newer option for fungal nail infections. It involves using laser energy to target and destroy the fungi without damaging the surrounding tissues.
  4. Surgical Intervention: In some cases, surgical procedures such as nail removal or debridement may be necessary to treat severe or recurring fungal nail infections.

Prevention Tips for Fungal Nail Infections:

  1. Keep Nails Clean and Dry: Regularly clean and dry your nails, especially after bathing or swimming, to prevent moisture buildup that can promote fungal growth.
  2. Trim Nails Properly: Trim your nails straight across and file the edges to avoid sharp corners or jagged edges that can cause nail injuries.
  3. Protect Your Feet: Wear proper footwear in public areas like pools, gyms, and showers to minimize exposure to fungi. Also, use breathable socks and change them daily.
  4. Avoid Sharing Personal Items: Do not share nail clippers, files, or other personal nail care items, as this can spread fungal infections.

Fungal nail infections can be uncomfortable and affect the appearance of nails. By understanding the types of fungi that can cause these infections, their causes, available treatments, and prevention strategies, individuals can take proactive steps to protect their nails and seek appropriate care when needed. Remember, early intervention and proper management can help prevent the spread of fungal nail infections and promote healthy nails.



RIVERA FOOT & ANKLE: At Orlando H.Rivera DPM, our priority is to deliver quality care to informed patients in a comfortable and convenient setting. When you have problems with your feet, you need to turn to a podiatrist who listens and responds… an experienced doctor who knows the field and can effectively diagnose and treat your needs… a friendly physician who counsels you on the best ways to maintain and improve your health. Our physician(s) meet all these criteria. Plus, you benefit from a dedicated team of trained professionals who give you the individualized attention you deserve.

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