5 Facts About Nail Fungus

Written by Lela Lankerani, MD, Board Certified Dermatologist on March 3, 2017 8 Comments

treating toenail fungus

Fungal nail infection (medically known as onychomycosis) occurs when a fungus grows in or underneath your fingernail or toenail causing the nail to thicken, and become discolored (typically yellow or brown) or overly fragile. The fungus, of a group called dermatophytes, can live in the dead tissue of the nail, outer skin layer and hair.

Here are 5 important things to know about nail fungus:

1. Some people are more susceptible

There are several risk factors that can increase your chances of fungal development under the nails. Individuals with the following traits have a higher risk of contracting nail fungus:

  • Older adults (nail fungus is rather rare in younger individuals)
  • Individuals with immune system and blood circulatory disorders
  • Diabetes, psoriasis, or hyperhidrosis sufferers
  • People with diseased or deformed nails

Additionally, engaging in the following behaviors/activities are more susceptible for infection:

  • Working in damp areas
  • Regularly using public swimming pools, showers, and gyms
  • Consistently wearing closed footwear
  • Regularly getting manicures and pedicures in spa’s
  • Failing to practice proper hygiene

If you fall into one or more of the above groups you have a heightened risk of infection.

2. Fungus is contagious

Did you know that nail fungus can spread from person to person (and even from nails to the skin) through direct contact? This is the reason why you should steer clear from sharing socks or walking barefoot in public areas.

3. There are early warning signs

Spotting a fungal infection early on makes treatment easier (and faster). Often the first sign of infection is a white or yellow spot under the tip of the nail. Later, symptoms tend to become more dramatic, including changes in the shape of the nail, brittleness, crumbling of the edge of the nail, a loosening or lifting of the nail, loss of luster or shine, white or yellow streaks, or a thickening of the nail.

If you notice any of these symptoms see a dermatologist right away.

4. Prevention is possible

Nail fungus thrives in dark and moist environments, which is why fungal development is more common in toenails rather than fingernails. The combination of sweaty (damp) socks and constricting shoes is the ideal environment for fungus to grow.

Limiting moisture by changing your socks throughout the day is by far the best form of prevention. Keeping your nails clean and dry will significantly reduce your chances of developing nail fungus.

Additional ways to prevent nail fungus include:

  • Regularly clipping your fingernails and toe nails
  • Washing your nails daily
  • Wearing slippers in public locker rooms, pools, and showers
  • Not sharing shoes, socks, and nail clippers with others
  • Only visiting nail salons that are licensed by the state’s cosmetology board (and making sure they use newly sterilized instruments during your treatment)

5. Treatment can take time

There are several effective treatments for nail fungus, however, all methods take time. The fungus is only “cured” by regrowth of new, healthy nail. Because nails grow slowly, this might take up to a year. In severe cases, the infected nail may need to be removed.

Prescription oral anti-fungal can effectively treat nail fungus; however, they may need to be taken for two to three months before infections completely clear up. Additionally, laser treatments have been found to effectively treat fungus, usually in about six treatments.


Lela Lankerani, MD

Lela Lankerani D.O. received her undergraduate degree in Biology at Washington University where she graduated cum laude. Dr. Lankerani has published articles in several scientific journals and has presented at national scholarly meetings including the American Academy of Dermatology and American Osteopathic Academy of Dermatology.

8 Responses to “5 Facts About Nail Fungus”

  1. Avatar Tracy says:

    ewww gross 🙂

  2. Avatar Cliff says:

    I have near constant issue with nail fungus on my feet. I found that changing my socks throughout the day has helped, but the issue still persists

  3. Avatar Bob says:

    I’ve found that the regular application of a natural anti-fungal solution is the best way to treat nail fungus.

    • Avatar becky says:

      Oh, I agree. The people who recommend home remedies that work over like a three month period are crazy. I don’t want to have to deal with nail fungus more than necessary.

  4. Avatar Nathan says:

    Reading this article is very great! Nail fungus is a very common infection and fungus can be spread to public places such as showers or pools. Natural remedies for nail fungus are very helpful to get rid toenail fungus, however, cleaning your feet regularly or trimming your nails can be helpful also.

  5. Avatar Thomas says:

    You made a great point when you said that spotting an infection early in order to get the right treatment. Nail fungus ought to be taken care of as soon as it is detected!

  6. Avatar Roman says:

    Interested in the laser options did not know that even existed thanks for the share

    • Avatar Fabreon says:

      Great Article. I hate nail fungus. So annoying. Alot people can get them simply because they have to walk to where they need to go. No money for bus or any other transportation. But my question is, isnt there a foot bath solution that will help against nail fungus??

Leave a Reply