How to Treat a Fungal Nail Infection: Everything You Need to Know

Fungal nail infection, also known as onychomycosis, leads to thickened, brittle and discoloured nails. This infection is more common in the toenails than in the fingers. Knowing how to treat a fungal nail infection will help you greatly if you think you have this issue.


This infection is caused by fungi, which may refer to yeasts, dermatophytes, or moulds. Toenail fungus can get into the nails via small cracks.


What Causes Fungal Nail Infections?

Fungal nail infections can spread quickly. The fungi that cause it love thriving and growing in warm and humid environments. Because of this, it is easy to get this infection in communal showers, borrowing other people’s shoes, and using public changing rooms.


Overgrowth occurs when the living fungus invades the nail through the nail bed or nail plate. The fungus begins growing from the end of the nail plate and continues under the nail.


Although not all nails can get infected by fungus, it is highly contagious, and there is a chance it will spread to the other nails or even other people.


Fungi feed on the nail’s keratin, making the nails look ugly. It causes the nails to form chalky, white spots, leading to yellowish discolouration and, eventually, a brownish colour. The cell damage caused by the fungus causes them to thicken or change in shape.


A mild infection is the easiest to treat. But if the fungi have spread to the hard-to-reach part of the nails, it will become severe. As a result, traditional creams and lacquers won’t have much effect as topical treatments can’t penetrate these unreachable areas.


What Puts You at Risk of Having This Infection?

Wearing closed and thick footwear

Boots and sneakers are examples.


Poor hygiene

If you do not wash your feet thoroughly and do not dry them completely after taking a shower or getting your feet wet.


Humid environment

You are at risk if you work long hours in a humid or wet environment, such as farming.


Excessive sweating

As mentioned, fungi love living in a warm and humid environment. If you have sweaty feet and wear occlusive shoes all the time, it provides the best environment for the fungi to thrive.


Nail trauma

It includes repetitive rubbing of the toes against each other or stubbing your toe.


Immune system issues

People with diabetes and HIV are also at higher risk.


Signs and Symptoms

If your nails have one or more of the following symptoms, visit a podiatrist. You might have a fungal nail infection.

  • Distorted shape
  • Whitish to brownish nail discolouration
  • Foul smell
  • Thickened nails
  • Brittleness


In severe cases, patients can experience the following complications if they leave their fungal nail infection untreated.

  • Athlete’s foot
  • Jock’s itch
  • Chronic pain
  • Detachment of the infected nail
  • Fungal sepsis (for people with a weak immune system: people with diabetes and HIV)

Ways to Prevent Fungal Nail Infection

Whether you already have a fungal nail infection or not, it is best to follow the best practices to avoid contracting the fungi that cause it.


The best and the most important practice that everyone should observe is proper foot hygiene. Wash your feet thoroughly as you bathe or take a shower, and dry them thoroughly afterwards. Do not neglect the spaces between your toes.


As much as possible, wear comfortable and breathable socks and shoes, and do not borrow them from other people. Change your socks daily. If the climate is warmer, change them twice per day. Do not wear the same shoes for two consecutive days.


Do not walk barefooted when you are in communal bathing facilities. Also, make sure that the water in these areas is clean.


If you want to get a pedicure from a salon, make sure to get it from a professional pedicurist who observes proper hygiene. The pedicurist should sanitise and disinfect the tools after using them on each of their clients.


Toenail Fungus Treatment

Nothing beats fungal nail infection better than prevention. However, once you already have it, this issue won’t go away on its own. Medical intervention is necessary.


Topical Medication

If your fungal infection is mild, applying an antifungal nail cream can be the best home remedy you can do for your toenails. However, their ability to completely cure the infection is limited. That is why applying antifungal cream is not enough if you are suffering from a severe case.


Oral Medication

If you’re looking for the best over-the-counter medicine for nail fungus treatment, go for oral medication. Compared to topical creams, oral medications have a better success rate in curing fungal nail infections. But also because of this, oral medications are more expensive than topical antifungal creams.


Before taking anything for oral medication, consult a podiatrist first. Ask which medication is the best for your condition to prevent unwanted side effects. It also ensures that you won’t have any complications if you’re suffering from another disease.


Laser Treatment

If you’re looking for a treatment that kills fungus fast with an 80% success rate, getting a laser treatment is your best option.


In a podiatric clinic, your foot doctor would use an apparatus that beams laser light that can penetrate the unreachable parts of your nails. You will have to get a series of these treatments to kill all the fungi on your nails.


It is a pain-free series of procedures without any side effects. That is why podiatrists recommend getting it as a treatment for nail fungal infection because it is the most effective and safe.


Frequently Asked Questions

Here are some commonly asked questions about fungal nail infections:


How long does it take to treat fungal nail infections?

You’ll see the effect of the treatment after the nail has grown from its base to its tip. Depending on your age, treatment can take around six months to two years.


Are fungal nails contagious?

Fungal infections are highly contagious. Those infected can transmit it easily to other people by lending footwear or bathing in communal facilities.


Do fungal infections go away?

Fungal infections do go away if treated properly. The best treatment depends on the severity of the case. Fungal infections are easier to treat in mild cases. However, an intervention from a podiatrist is crucial, especially in severe cases, and you want to make sure the infection won’t come back.


Even if you get your fungal infection treated, it does not mean that you will not be at risk of having it again. The best treatment against fungal nail infection is prevention, which you can achieve by observing proper hygiene.


Can I take antibiotics to cure nail fungal infections?

Taking antibiotics in treating fungal nail infection per se is useless. It is because antibiotics kill bacteria and not fungi themselves. If your podiatrist gives you an antibacterial medication, the goal is not to kill the fungus. The reason is to protect you from the bacterial infection that comes along with it.


For this reason, podiatrists won’t prescribe antibiotics for fungal infections unless there is a bacterial infection. What they would instead recommend is antifungal cream, oral medications, or laser treatment.


Are children at risk of having fungal nail infections?

Toenail fungus can affect everyone, although it is rare in children and most common in people in their senior years. However, the chance of contracting this infection increases as a person ages.



If you think you have a nail fungal infection, do not self-medicate. Always have a medical professional or a podiatrist make a proper diagnosis.


Experiencing the signs and symptoms of a fungal nail infection does not immediately mean that you already have it. Other diseases, such as psoriasis, can also exhibit almost the same signs and symptoms. That’s why you should not waste your hard-earned money treating the wrong condition. Visit us today and get a proper diagnosis.


Director | Rehabilitation or Rehab / Sports Podiatrist,

Foot Mobilisation & Trigenics® Lower Limb Practitioner, Movement Restoration Coach (MRC™), Strength and Conditioning Coach

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For further information, visit the The Footwork Clinic – Leading Sports, Podiatry, Foot And Lower Limb Corrective Services to book online, or call Mark Lin or his friendly team on +61 2 9131 6891.

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The information contained in this guide is provided in good faith and is not intended to be nor is it to be used as a substitute for any sort of professional, medical or podiatric advice. An accurate diagnosis can only be made following personal consultation with a podiatrist. Any users should always seek the advice of their podiatrist, or other qualified healthcare providers before commencing any treatment.

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