Nail Fungal Infection

A foot showing the toes with the big toe chipped and discolored

Fungal infection of the toenails (also called onychomycosis) occurs when a fungus infects the tissue underneath the toenail. The result is discoloration of the nail. Often the nail becomes thickened and raised. It commonly involves several nails simultaneously. It often occurs in people with persistent moisture in their feet, such as with footwear that does not allow air circulation or in those who perspire excessively in their feet.


The diagnosis of fungal infection of a toenail can be made based on the appearance of the toe. In some cases a sample may be obtained, to look for fungus under a microscope or to grow and identify the fungus in a laboratory.

Photo: A close up of the big toe with the nail broken and discolored


The treatment for fungal nail infections usually involves an antifungal antibiotic. Oral antibiotics are generally required to treat the fungus while new nail grows in. The medication needs to be taken for several weeks to months while a new, healthy nail grows in. Antifungal medications applied to the surface of the nail are not usually effective. In other cases, the infected nail is removed.

Without Treatment

The nails can become very thickened, discolored and unsightly. In some cases, pain or infection can result from very thickened nails.

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