Nail Fungus

What is Nail Fungus?

Nail fungus is the result of a fungal infection and manifests itself as a white or yellow spot located under the fingernail or toenail. Since fungi are present in the body at any given time and exist alongside different types of bacteria, it is not an uncommon condition. This infection is related to another infection called  Athlete’s Foot which, in turn, also affects the skin of the foot.

Nail fungus is also called onychomycosis or tinea unguium. Nail fungus tends to develop over a period of time so symptoms are often overlooked at first. The fungus can lead to discoloring and thickening of the nails or make nails more brittle. In many cases, the infection does not cause any problems and therefore, does not require immediate treatment.

What are the Symptoms of Nail Fungus?

The signs of nail fungus are visible but not all of them may appear at once. They may appear over time.

At any given point, you may notice subungual hyperkeratosis, which is a type of scaling that occurs under the nail. You may notice yellowish or whitish streaks on the nail (lateral onychomycosis). Distal onychomycosis, or a crumbling of the tips or corners of the nail, may occur. You may also see pits in the nail or flaking on the surface or yellow spots that appear near the bottom of the nail. It’s possible to lose the nail.

How is Nail Fungus Treated?

You can try to treat the nail with over-the-counter products but they are not usually successful. Some of the over-the-counter treatments include topical solutions or nail lacquer, which are brushed on the nail like nail polish.

If you think you have nail fungus you should see a doctor who will likely prescribe an antifungal medication. This may be terbinafine (Lamisil), griseofulvin (Gris-Peg), itraconazole (Sporanox), or fluconazole (Diflucan).

Treatment for nail fungus may be required several times as one treatment will not always get rid of the fungal infection. About 50% of the time, the infection will return.

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Last Reviewed:
October 10, 2016
Last Updated:
August 09, 2017