Nobody likes nail fungus, whether it’s on their nails or someone else’s. It’s unsightly, doesn’t feel good, and it’s contagious. So at the Skin and Cancer Institute, we’ve put together a guide to show you how to keep from getting it–and what to do if you become infected.
What is Nail Fungus
Nail fungus is a common infection of the fingernails or toenails caused by fungi (yeast, mold, or dermatophyte) that gets into the nail bed. Anyone can get a fungal nail infection, although you are more vulnerable than the general population if you have athlete’s foot, diabetes, or a compromised immune system.
Signs You Have Nail Fungus
You know you have a fungal infection when your nail turns white (yeast), brown (mold), or yellow (dermatophyte). Another tell-tale sign is a crumbling nail that breaks easily. If your nail stinks–even after you wash it–you probably have a fungal infection. Also, look for a nail that changes position and curls up or down. This is a sign that something is wrong. Another sign of a fungal infection is the way your nail feels. Is it more sensitive than usual? If so, you should see your dermatologist.
How Nail Fungus Spreads
Nail fungus spreads in damp, communal places like swimming locker rooms, swimming pools, and showers. The fungi get into the nail bed from a crack in the nail or nearby skin.
How to Treat Nail Fungus
Treatment for fungal infections starts with your dermatologist cutting your nail short and then scraping underneath to get as much fungus out as possible. Your dermatologist will then determine whether you need oral or topical medication or both.
Medication That You Swallow
Oral medication is the more aggressive (and effective) of the two options. Plus, it works faster than topical medication. Antifungal pills have some side effects, so your dermatologist will want to keep an eye on you. It takes two months to clear a fingernail infection and three months to remove a toenail infection. Medications you can take include:
Some topical medications are applied daily, others weekly. They include:
How to Prevent Nail Fungus
- Wash and moisturize your hands and feet regularly
- Have your own nail clippers, and don’t share
- Wear sandals in wet communal areas
- Keep your nails short and clean
- Wear socks that absorb sweat
- Buy breathable shoes
Nail fungus is no fun—because it looks terrible, feels terrible, and is spreadable. It’s a common infection of the fingernail or toenail bed that happens when yeast, mold, or dermatophyte get in through a crack in the nail or skin. Look for white, brown, or yellow nails that flake easily. Nail fungus spreads in damp public places like locker rooms. You can avoid getting it by not going barefoot. Your dermatologist is a nail specialist and can treat fungal infections with oral or topical medications or a combination of both. Contact the Skin and Cancer Institute today if you think you have a fungal infection.