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The ultimate guide to fingernail fungus

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Fingernail fungus

Fingernail fungus is a common condition that affects many people every year. Initially it shows up as a white or yellow spot. It appears below the tip of fingernail. As the infection grows, it may make your nails discolored and thick. It may also cause crumble at the edges of your nails. If you are having thickened nails and there is pain, then you may need to self-care to eliminate it or go see a doctor.

However, it is possible that your infection may come back after some time. If the infection spreads to the areas between the skin of the feet and the toes, then it is known as athlete’s foot.

Nail Fungus

How do you find out if you have fingernail fungus?

There are some symptoms which will help you to find out if you have fingernail fungus. Look for the following symptoms-

  • Your nails are thickened
  • The nails are crumbly and brittle
  • They are distorted in shape
  • They look dull and there is no shine
  • The nails appear dark in color

Some patients also suffer from a condition in which the infected nails separate from their beds. This is a condition known as onycholysis. In such a situation, there will be pain in the fingertips and toes and there may be a slightly foul odor.

Do need to see the doctor?

If you have taken some self care steps, but even after that there is no respite, you should go and see a doctor. If you have diabetes and you are suffering from nail fungus, it is very important that you go and see your doctor.

What are the causes of fingernail fungus?

A dermatophyte fungus causes fingernail fungus. Sometimes yeasts and moulds can also cause such fungal infections.

A fungus is a microscopic organism that may cause different illness and infection. Some fungi are beneficial and they offer several different benefits.

Toenails and fingernail fungus

Generally, fingernail fungus is not as prevalent as toenail fungus. Since toenails are often kept in the dark, moist and warm environment in your shoes, fungus can easily grow in them. Less blood flow to the toes in comparison to fingers and so the immune system of your body may not easily detect and prevent any infection happening in the toenails.

Risk factors associated with fingernail fungus

The risk factors are those factors that can increase the possibility of fingernail fungus infection. Such factors include-

  • Older people who have less flow to the different organs
  • Heavy perspiration
  • Family history of fingernail fungus problem
  • Working environment. If your working environment is humid and moist and you often keep your hands wet, then there is a possibility of fingernail fungus.
  • Staying with someone with the fingernail fungus problem
  • Any minor skin or nail injury
  • Skin problems like psoriasis
  • Diabetic patients
  • People with circulation problems
  • Children
  • People with weakened immune system
  • People with Down syndrome


Sometimes, there may be complications resulting from fingernail fungus. If the attack is severe, it may cause permanent damage to the nails of your finger. It may also cause other serious infections. If you are suffering from a suppressed immune system resulting from diabetes, other medical condition or medication, the fungus may spread to other areas of your body.

People suffering from diabetes often see reduced blood circulation and in that case it may help in bacterial skin infection. A small, minor injury can cause other complications. Patients with diabetes and fingernail fungus should immediately see their doctors.

Before you go to your doctor

Before you visit your doctor to get advice on your anger nail fungus problem, you need to prepare well, so that you get the most out of your appointment with the doctor.

You should list your symptoms. Even though they are not related to fingernail fungus, you should list them out.

List your personal information, which should include any major life changes or stresses you are undergoing.

List all the medicines, supplements and vitamins you are taking.

If you have any questions to ask your doctor, write them down.

Tests and diagnosis

When you go to your doctor, the doctor will examine your nails. In some cases, the doctor may also scrape some debris from your nail and send it to a laboratory to find out what type of fungus is involved in the infection. If you are suffering from other skin problems like psoriasis, then it may look similar to fingernail fungus. Since yeast and bacteria can also cause similar infractions, your doctor will verify if you have fingernail fungus or not.

Treatments and medicines

If using self-care techniques and over-the-counter medicines do not help you to get rid of fingernail fungus, the doctor may advise a combination of prescription medicines and other ways. You need to remember that repeat infections in case of fingernail fungus are very common.


Oral antifungal medicines

There are oral antifungal medicines available, which your doctor may prescribe for you. Terbinafine (Lamisil) and itraconazole (Sporanox) are some of the most effective and prescribed medicines in case of fingernail fungus. They help in growing a new nail which will ultimately replace the infected nail. Such medicines are generally prescribed for 6 to 12 weeks. However, you will be able to see the final result only when the nail grows back completely. That is why; it may take about four months to completely cure an infection.

The success rates of such treatments may be lower in case of people who are over 65 years. The effectiveness of the treatment increases when you combine both oral and topical antifungal medicines. There may be some side-effects of oral antifungal medicines. To avoid any problem, you may need to undergo blood tests. If you’re suffering from a liver disease or congestive heart failure, your doctor may not advise those medicines.

Medicated nail polish

For treatment of fingernail fungus, medicated nail polish is available. Such an antifungal nail polish is known as ciclopirox (Penlac). You paint your infected nails and the surrounding area with this medicated polish. Do this once a day. Keep it for seven days, and after that remove the piled on layers using alcohol. Then use it again. You may need to use this nail polish daily for about a year to get rid of the infraction.

Medicated nail cream

There are antifungal medicated nail creams available which will help you to get rid of fingernail fungus infection. You soak your nails and then use the cream on your infected nails. To increase the effectiveness of such medicated creams, you can thin your nails.

Surgical procedures

Nail removal

In case of severe nail infection, or if it is extremely painful for you, your doctor may surgically remove the nail. A new nail generally grows to replace the removed one. It may take some time, for your nail to grow back completely. Surgery and ciclopirox may also be combined with such treatments.

Laser and light-based therapies

When these methods are combined with other medicines, they will help your nails to improve. Carbon dioxide laser therapy and antifungal nail creams are combined in such therapies. These therapies may be expensive and are not easily available everywhere.


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