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Alternative Names Return to topNails - fungal infection; Onychomycosis; Infection - fungal - nails; Tinea unguium
Definition Return to top
Fungal nail infection is an infection of the nails by a fungus.
Causes Return to top
The body normally hosts a variety of bacteria and fungi. Some of these are useful to the body. Others may multiply rapidly and form infections. Fungi can live on the dead tissues of the hair, nails, and outer skin layers.
Fungal infections include mold-like fungi that cause:
Fungal infections also include yeast-like fungi such as candida. Candida yeast infections include:
Fungal nail infections are most often seen in adults. They often follow fungal infection of the feet. Toenails are affected more often than fingernails.
People who frequent public swimming pools, gyms, or shower rooms -- and people who perspire a great deal -- commonly have mold-like infections. The fungi that cause them thrive in warm, moist areas.
The following increase the risk of a fungal infection:
Symptoms Return to top
Exams and Tests Return to top
Your doctor will suspect a fungal infection based on the appearance of the nails.
The diagnosis can be confirmed by scraping the nail for a culture, or a microscopic examination to identify the type of fungus.
Treatment Return to top
Over-the-counter creams and ointments generally do not help treat this condition.
Prescription antifungal medicines taken by mouth may help clear the fungus in about 50% of patients. However, such medicines can cause side effects or may interfere with other medications. Some of the oral medications used to treat fungal infections of the nail can harm the liver.
In some cases, the health care provider may remove the nail. Nails grow slowly. Even if treatment is successful, a new, clearer nail may take up to a year to grow in.
Outlook (Prognosis) Return to top
The fungal nail infection is cured by the growth of new, non-infected nails.
Fungal nail infections may be difficult to treat. Even with successful treatment, it is common for the fungus to return.
Possible Complications Return to top
When to Contact a Medical Professional Return to top
Call your health care provider if:
Prevention Return to top
Good general health and hygiene help prevent fungal infections.