Fungal nail infection


Fungal nail infection, also known as onychomycosis, is a common condition which affects the appearance and health of the toenails and fingernails. These infections are caused by fungi that grow underneath and on the nails, making them thick, discolored and brittle. Symptoms of this condition include thickening of the nails, crumbling of the nail, discoloration of the nail, pain in the nail, and sometimes an unpleasant odor. Treatment options include oral and topical antifungal medications, as well as laser treatments. Toenail fungal infections are more common than fingernail infections and may take longer to heal.


The symptoms of a fungal nail infection usually include the following:

  • Discoloration or change in nail color, often yellow or brown
  • Thickened nails
  • Brittle and crumbly nails
  • Distorted or irregular nail shape
  • Foul odor coming from the infected nails
  • White, powdery material on the surface of the nail
  • Separation of the nail from the skin under the nail
  • Pain or discomfort associated with the nail
  • Blotches or spots on the nail


The most common cause of a fungal nail infection is exposure to a damp environment and contact with fungus or yeasts, such as those found in soil, showers, or swimming pools. Other contributing factors include a weakened immune system, trauma or injury to the nail, poor hygiene, wearing tight shoes, and a family history of the infection. People who go to the gym or participate in sports may also be more likely to develop a fungal nail infection due to increased exposure to fungal and yeast spores.

Risk factors

The risk factors for Fungal nail infection include:

  • Exposure to warm and moist environments
  • Wearing damp socks or shoes for long periods of time
  • Poor personal hygiene
  • Going barefoot in communal areas such as locker rooms, pools, or public showers
  • Poorly fitting shoes
  • Trauma to the nail that causes a break in the nail or cuticle
  • Having a weak immune system
  • Having a skin or nail injury
  • Diabetes
  • Smoking
  • Having family members with fungal nail infection
  • Wearing artificial nails
  • Having an existing skin or nail infection


Fungal nail infection is usually diagnosed based on a physical exam where your doctor will review your nail for signs of thickening, discoloration, or crumbling. Your doctor may also take a sample of your nail for further testing in a lab. In some cases, a potassium hydroxide (KOH) test may be performed to confirm the presence of a fungal infection. This test involves putting a small sample of your nail on a slide and examining it under a microscope.


  1. Distal Subungual Onychomycosis (DSO): This is the most common type of fungal nail infection which affects the underside of the nail and causes it to discolor and thicken. The nail may also separate from the nail bed and develop debris or a bad smell.
  2. White Superficial Onychomycosis (WSO): This type of fungal infection usually appears as white spots or dots and is commonly found on the top surface of the nail.
  3. Candidal Onychomycosis (CO): This type of infection is caused by a yeast infection, Candida albicans, and is marked by thick, yellow, crumbly toenails.
  4. Proximal Subungual Onychomycosis (PSO): This type of fungal infection is marked by thickened, yellow nails, but it affects the area near the cuticle instead of the underside of the nail.
  5. Endonyx Onychomycosis (EO): This type of fungal infection is identified by a discoloration, usually yellowish or white, of the nail plate itself, usually without any other changes to the nail.


Treatment options for fungal nail infection can include antifungal medications taken either orally or as an ointment, laser treatment, and topical antifungal treatments. Oral antifungal medications are typically taken for several months and can include fluconazole, terbinafine, and itraconazole. Some possible topical treatments include clotrimazole, miconazole, ketoconazole, and ciclopirox. Laser treatment for fungal nail infection can involve a single session or multiple sessions, depending on the severity of the infection. Topical antifungal treatments can be applied directly to the affected nail, as well as any other affected areas of the body.


To reduce the risk of fungal nail infection, it is important to practice good foot hygiene by keeping the feet clean and dry, wearing clean socks and shoes, avoiding sharing towels or walking barefoot in areas where the infection is more likely to be found, such as public showers or locker rooms, changing the socks and shoes regularly, and avoiding tight-fitting shoes. Additionally, it is important to avoid biting or picking at nails and exposing them to any kind of moisture that can lead to a fungal infection. Finally, over-the-counter antifungal treatments and prescription medications can be used to help prevent and treat fungal nail infections.

Gender differences?

Yes, there are gender-specific differences in the presentation and management of fungal nail infection. Generally, women tend to be more likely to experience the infection than men, as the infection is more commonly found in toenails. This is due to the fact that toenails are more often hidden in dark and moist areas, which creates more favorable conditions for fungal growth. Additionally, women tend to receive more aggressive treatments than men due to the fact that their nails are often longer and more visible, making the infection more noticeable. Women are also more likely to wear nail polish and artificial nails, both of which can make the infection more difficult to treat. Treatment for fungal nail infection typically includes topical antifungals, oral antifungal medications, and/or laser treatments. Women are often more likely to opt for laser treatments due to their effectiveness and the lack of potential side effects.


Nutrition plays a key role in the management of fungal nail infection. Eating a healthy and balanced diet, with plenty of fresh fruits and vegetables, can help improve your immune system. Vitamins and minerals like vitamin A, zinc, and selenium, as well as antioxidants, can help the body fight off fungal infections more effectively. Additionally, a healthy diet can help prevent fungal nail infections from occurring in the first place. Avoiding refined sugars and processed foods, as well as foods with a high sugar or yeast content, will also help reduce the risk of getting a fungal nail infection. Finally, drinking plenty of water can help keep the nail bed hydrated and healthy, while also flushing out any lingering fungal spores.

Physical Activity

Physical activity is not directly linked to Fungal nail infection. The fungus that causes Fungal nail infection thrives in warm, moist environments, so it is important to keep the feet dry as much as possible. Additionally, wearing open shoes that allow your feet to breathe and keeping your toenails trimmed can help prevent the spread of infection. Physical activity can aid in reducing the risk of Fungal nail infection by ensuring feet are kept dry and providing the body with a healthy boost to the immune system. Regular exercise has been shown to reduce stress and support a healthy immune system, which can help keep Fungal nail infection at bay.

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